A relationship can be obtained in sin and continued in righteousness. Even though multiple examples can be given, I want to give a few examples to demonstrate this point. My first example will be a Christian marrying a non-Christian.  As a general rule, the Bible has always taught against marrying a non-Christian/non-believer (Deut. 7:1-5; Josh. 23:12; Mal. 2:11; Ex. 34:12-16; Neh. 13:25-27; 1 Cor. 9:5; 1 Cor. 7:39; etc.). There are quite a few people in Christendom who believe that it is a sin for a Christian to marry a non-Christian or for a widow to marry a non-Christian.

For example, brother Wayne Jackson believes that it is a sin for a Christian to marry a non-Christian. Yet, he understands that one can repent of their decision without ceasing the relationship. Brother Jackson states:

“…what should one do when he realizes that, in marrying out of Christ, the primary interests of the Lord’s kingdom were not pursued? The answer is simple: repent of the disposition that led to that decision, and then set your mind toward the goal of making seek-the-kingdom-first choices henceforth in your life. There are many circumstances in our lives which are irreversible. Is it not possible that one could realize that he did not approach some of his earlier decisions with the highest of ideals?” (www.christiancourier.com/articles/313-should-a-christian-marry-outside-the-faith).

Just because someone may have sinned in marrying a non-Christian doesn’t mean they can’t be forgiven and remain married. Many religious intermarriages may be obtained in sin, but they can be continued in righteousness.

I now want to go to an Old Testament passage for my second example to illustrate how a relationship can be obtained in sin, yet continued in righteousness. David had unlawful sexual relations with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:1-4). Because of this, Bathsheba became pregnant (2 Sam. 11:5). David ended up having Bathsheba’s husband killed and took Bathsheba to be his wife (2 Sam. 11:10-27). This displeased God when David took Bathsheba in marriage (2 Sam. 11:27). The Bible says that David sinned because he:

“…killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife…” (2 Sam. 12:9). “…because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife” (2 Sam. 12:10).

There is no doubt that this marriage was obtained in sin. It was a sin for David to take Bathsheba in marriage. While it was clearly sinful in the way that the marriage of David and Bathsheba was obtained and while there were consequences and the rest of David’s life was very rough, it wasn’t sinful for David to continue his marriage to Bathsheba. Instead, repentance demanded that he confess his sin and move forward in His walk with God (2 Sam. 12:13-14; Psa. 51).

“So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” (2 Sam. 12:13)

David’s marriage was obtained in sin, yet he was forgiven. God did not “overlook” his sin. He forgave him of his sin. David’s sin also was not one done in ignorance. It was extremely willful. Was the way in which the marriage of David and Bathsheba obtained sinful? Yes. Was continuing in the relationship with Bathsheba sinful? No.

My third illustration will be a practical one. My third illustration is unwed pregnancy. Unwed pregnancy is not a sin. Yes, you read that correctly. There is nothing sinful with unwed pregnancy. The sin was the process that led to the pregnancy and not the pregnancy itself. Consider an unmarried 16-year-old male and female who fornicate and have a child. This parent-child relationship was obtained in sin. Through their fornication, a child was born (Jn. 8:41).

Can the parents keep the child or must they end the relationship with the child in order to repent? Even though this relationship was obtained in sin (fornication), it can be continued in righteousness. The parents wouldn’t have to give up their relationship with their daughter just because the relationship with their daughter was obtained sinfully. Was making the baby a sin? Yes. Was it an intentional sin? Yes. Was keeping the baby a sin? No. Even though the way they obtained the baby was sinful, having the baby itself wasn’t sinful. This is a very simple and practical illustration of how a relationship can be obtained in sin, yet continued in righteousness.

Fourth, I want to address divorce. When one enters into a marital relationship, they enter into a union that God joins together (Mt. 19:6). God hates divorce and commands that unlawful divorce not take place (Mal. 2:16; Mt. 19:6, 9). But what happens if a man decides one day that he no longer wants to be married to his wife? She has not gone out and slept with another man. She hasn’t forsaken her duties. She hasn’t quit loving him. He just wants to divorce her because he has decided that he wants to live the single life. He now feels that being married is too much work for him. So, he decides to obtain a divorce unlawfully and remain single.

This man did what God hates (Mal. 2:16). He specifically violated the command of Jesus by separating what God joined together (Mt. 19:6). He sinned in obtaining this divorce and I do not know of any Christian who would argue that this man didn’t sin in the way in which his divorce was obtained. However, what must this man do in order to repent? Can this man be forgiven of his divorce while remaining divorced? Or, is he living in a perpetual state of sin as long as he remains divorced? This man did what God hates, but he can still repent and get forgiveness for his divorce while remaining divorced (1 Cor. 7:10-11). He is not required to get out of his divorce in order to repent.

The result of the divorce itself was not sinful, but the process that got him to that position was. In other words, getting divorced unlawfully is sinful, but being divorced is not. A man who unlawfully divorced his spouse can ask God to forgive Him while he remains divorced. He would need to confess his sin and seek to no longer unlawfully divorce anyone else in the future (1 Jn. 1:7-9).

What about a marriage after an unlawful divorce? I believe that if one can obtain a divorce unjustly, yet justly remain divorced without continuing in sin, then one can obtain a marriage after an unlawful divorce, yet justly remain married without continuing in sin because the sin is not in the new marriage itself, but how the new marriage was obtained (i.e., through an unlawful divorce). These above examples (and the many that can mirror it) prove that a relationship can be attained in sin, yet continued in righteousness.

Some attempt to parallel homosexuality with subsequent marriages obtained after an unlawful divorce. However, there is a stark difference between the two. Homosexuality is, in and of itself, a sin. The homosexual relationship itself is wrong and always has been (Romans 1:26-29). A subsequent marriage after an unlawful divorce, in and of itself, is not wrong and never has been. The sin takes place in the process, the unlawful breaking up of a marriage. However, the new marriage itself is not sinful.

A sinful relationship and a relationship obtained through sin are two completely different things. A marriage obtained after an unlawful divorce is a relationship obtained through unlawfully breaking up a marriage, but the relationship itself is not sinful. A homosexual relationship is intrinsically a sinful relationship.

So how does one repent? Simple: One quits unlawfully divorcing. The new marriage itself is not a sin, but the process that led to it. Therefore, one must repent by asking God to forgive them and seek to no longer unlawfully divorce in the future. Repentance wouldn’t demand a further divorce for such would be further sin.

  • It is a sin for a man to divorce his wife unlawfully, but not sinful for him to remain divorced after his unlawful divorce.
  • It was a sin for David to take Bathsheba, but not a sin for him to keep her in marriage.
  • It is a sin to make a child through fornication, but not a sin for the couple of keep the child.
  • It is a sin to divorce unlawfully in order to marry another, but not a sin to remain remarried.

In all of these instances the sin is not in the new relationship, but in the sinful process that led to the new relationship. The aforementioned information is sufficient to prove that a relationship can be obtained in sin, but continued in righteousness.

– Kevin Pendergrass

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