1 Corinthians 7:12-16
Our God Understands
The word of God is alive and active, and it always shall be (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible tells us the way of salvation and gives us precepts to live by that our lives may glorify Him for His grace and provide us with joy as we experience the blessings of obedience and the fruit of righteousness. But God also understands that, because of sin, our lives get messy. And in this passage is the recognition on God’s part of a messy situation that needs a word of grace. Yes, there are times a believing spouse is married to an unbelieving spouse, though such a marital arrangement should never begin that way (1 Corinthians 7:39). But what happens when one spouse comes to saving faith while married to an unbeliever? That is the case here, and the case with many today, and it can be very difficult and heartbreaking.
It seems that some of the Corinthians who thought that intimacy was an evil thing even between Christian spouses decided that it was especially evil if one of the spouses was a pagan: Surely the Christian wife or husband would be defiled by such unsavory behavior! But Paul knows our Lord’s teaching on marriage too well to allow such an errant opinion to go uncorrected. And though Paul admits that Jesus said nothing concerning this specific situation, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, he may speak with authority on the subject. And, “No, he says, “you may not leave your unbelieving spouse.” Yes, the marriage bond is just that sacred. And far from the unbelieving spouse defiling the believing spouse, the unbelieving spouse is sanctified through union with the believing husband or wife. Now this does not mean that the unbelieving spouse is saved by virtue of being married to a believer, for that would go against everything Paul and the rest of the New Testament teaches about salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. But it certainly does tell us that an unbelieving spouse is under the influence of a believing spouse, as are the children. So the believing spouse is to remain in the marriage and be the loving and godly spouse God has called him or her to be.
But what if the unbelieving spouse leaves? Well, it doesn’t seem that much can really be done. That is called abandonment, and in God’s ever-gracious way, He says, “I call you to peace.” That is, God says to the brokenhearted, believing spouse, “I love you and I understand.” So, 1) God understands special cases in this sinful, mixed-up world; and, 2) This passage should afford some hope to believing spouses who truly love their unbelieving partner and have vowed “till death do us part,” for the unbelieving spouse is under the influence of the believing spouse, and that’s a good place to start.