Q. When I was young and before I became a believer in Christ, I took a vow that I would never leave the church I grew up in or its doctrines. I have since been baptized and have joined a fundamental Bible-preaching church. The promise I made long ago has been bothering me quite a bit. Can vows ever justifiably be broken?
A. Biblically a vow is a solemn promise to do or abstain from something. The matter of making vows often appears in the Old Testament, and it generally was voluntary. The law stated, “ ‘If you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you’ ” (Deuteronomy 23:22). However, when a person did make a vow, he or she was to keep it (v. 23). But also note that these vows were made to God, not merely to other people (v. 21).
In our present dispensation, the Church Age, we are not required to make vows, but on occasion we do, such as when we marry. Marriage vows are serious in God’s sight, so we must honor them. To do otherwise is sinful, though tragically all too common in our age. Whether making formal vows or everyday promises, we are obligated to keep them. Doing so is vital for our testimony in glorifying the Lord.
However, no church has the right to make its people vow that they will always be loyal to that church or denomination. Our loyalty has to be directed toward the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word, not a religion. When we trust Christ as our personal Savior, we are placed into God’s family; thus there is no condemnation for us (Romans 8:1). We are complete in Jesus, and that is what counts, not what some denomination requires.
You were right in finding a Bible-preaching church where sound doctrine, not man’s ideas or “spiritual hoops” to go through, is taught. The type of vow you made has no bearing on the present. Perhaps you made the vow under coercion or obligation and even in ignorance. God knows this, and He won’t hold it against you. He is interested in your obedience to the true Word of God and in your growth in grace.