1 Corinthians 7:12
The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 says, “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.”
“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:10-16).
The Instruction of Paul
Paul is basically saying here that if a married couple ends up having different views, where one is a believer and the other is not, as long as they are willing to live together, they should do so. He even states that the example of the believing spouse could win over the unbelieving spouse to the truth.
The apostle was merely echoing Christ’s instruction about the unbreakable and sacred nature of the marriage tie. “And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:4–6, 9).
These verses in 1 Corinthians 7 also say that there might be instances in which a non-Christian wife would be so opposing to the gospel that she would not wish to live with her Christian husband. In such cases, the husband could not prevent the separation. If, on the other hand, the unbelieving wife desired to remain with her believing husband, he is not at liberty to seek a separation. The marriage vow is sacred, and cannot be set aside by any change in the religious beliefs of either party.
In the same manner as the Christian husband is not free to divorce his non-Christian wife merely on the ground of religious differences, so the Christian wife may not divorce her non-Christian husband for that same reason.
The only effect of being born again by one spouse should be to make him or her more more loving than before. A marriage to an unbeliever is to be regarded as binding on a Christian so long as the non-Christian does not voluntarily separate himself from his believing spouse and remarries.
Paul wrote, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband.” The apostle does not mean that the non-Christian husband or wife would become pure, or be converted to Christianity, simply by living in matrimony with a believer. The word “Sanctified,” merely show a status that does not corrupt. If the marriage is legal, and is accepted as such by the church, the two are by the marriage union one flesh (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5, 6; Ephesians 5:31) and there is no need for a divorce.
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In His service,
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