1 Corinthians 7:12-15

In 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 Paul continues his teaching around marriage and relationships. He has just told the church that divorce is not God’s plan, and he continues that teaching regarding marriages where a believer is married to one who does not believe. “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.” The Corinthian church was questioning whether marriage to an unbeliever would be a spiritual deterrent to walking with God. This spiritual concern is a valid – and urgent – reason for not marrying an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14), but it is not a reason for ending an existing marriage with an unbeliever. It should not lead to divorce.

It doesn’t matter which is the unbeliever – husband or wife. “If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.” Why should a Christian try to keep their marriage to a non-Christian together? Because God can be glorified in such a marriage, and He may do a work through the believing spouse to draw the unbelieving spouse to Jesus Christ. “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”

Paul is not saying that being married to a believer will make their spouse a believer (holy) through marriage. It simply means that they are set apart for a special working in their lives by the Holy Spirit, by virtue of being so close to someone who is a Christian. And he makes specific mention to the kids that are born in this marriage. Not only does the presence of a believing spouse do good for the unbelieving spouse, it also does good for the children. Scholars disagree about exactly what this means but it seems to definitely show that children in a marriage with at least one believer are in a different position than those who aren’t.

Paul has counseled that the Christian partner should do what they can to keep the marriage together. But if the unbelieving spouse refuses to be married, then the marriage can be broken. “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.” If the unbelieving spouse should depart, the Christian is not under bondage to the marriage covenant. This means they are, in fact, free to remarry because God has recognized the reason for their divorce. It definitely should not be sought, and every effort should be made to prevent the separation through reconciliation as God’s plan is for marriage to be once for all time.

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