Is it acceptable to God to marry a pagan? The Apostle Paul’s discourse in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 discourages Christians strongly from becoming unequally yoked; that is, he cautions us against marrying an unbeliever. Who then, can please God by taking a pagan bride?
The answer depends on the timing and the person. Under the Old Covenant, taking a pagan bride did not always lead to trouble, but most men who married pagans stumbled in their service to God. The Bible records Esau and Samson as prime examples. However, taking a pagan bride did not guarantee ungodly behavior on the part of the groom. For a Godly groom, it was a sometimes a blessing, but even more so for the bride.
Joseph was one man who had Godly success with a pagan bride. After Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream correctly, Pharaoh gave Joseph several items – his ring (an ancient credit card) a new wardrobe of royal clothes, a gold chain necklace, a chauffeur-driven chariot (limousine of the era), a title (Zaphenath-Paneah), and last, but not least, a wife. Suddenly and without warning, Joseph had a pagan bride. Her name was Asenath, which means “One who belongs to Naith. Naith was an Egyptian goddess, the mother of the Nile delta.
Only God could make such an unlikely pairing. Joseph now was in charge of the land of Egypt (Genesis41:41), an exalted Jew who called forth a Gentile bride from obscurity and paganism, married her, and set her next to himself in his seat of power. This pagan bride, formerly an obscure figure enslaved to idolatry, began suddenly to share in all the splendor and glory, fame, and power of her exalted husband. Moreover, Joseph continued to serve God and avoid many of the pitfalls that others experienced with their pagan brides.
Joseph’s positive experience was grace, not luck. With God’s blessing, former pagans can make good Christians. For example, Ruth started life as a pagan, but recognized the supreme value of the Living God. She became a model of faith and is one of only two women to have a chapter in the Bible. She is also one of only three women to be mentioned by name as part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-12).
As a practical matter, the Church of Jesus Christ started out with mostly former pagans as members, including many formerly pagan brides. The Jewish people had largely rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so if the Church were to grow, the only other choice was to enlist former pagans (Gentiles). God chose the Apostle Paul to be His chosen emissary to bring the Good News to the pagan, Gentile world, and he was hugely successful in converting people whom the Jews considered heathens. Pagan brides helped make the Church what it is today.
It is normal for Jesus to welcome pagans into the New Covenant, the body of which is His Church, the bride for which He will return. Jesus loves His bride. Jesus died for His bride. Jesus protects His bride and sanctifies His bride. What a privilege it is to be a part of the bride of Christ! As a Gentile with faith in Him, I feel especially lucky that Jesus would accept me as part of His Church. I will someday share in the wealth and eternal riches of Christ for being part of His bride.
Paul’s warning to refrain from marrying someone who has not accepted Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior is good advice. Under the New Covenant, we should not bring pagans into Christ’s Church through marriage to Christians, lest they be unequally yoked. However, former pagans have long been an important part of the bride of Jesus Christ. By accepting Him, they have made themselves ready for Him. “For the marriage of the Lamb is to come, and His wife has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7). Are you ready to be part of the bride of Jesus Christ?
A servant of Jesus Christ
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