1 Corinthians 7:12-16
Let us look at the readings of various texts and then make some comments.
(KJV) 12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
(CEV) 12 I don't know of anything else the Lord said about marriage. All I can do is to give you my own advice. If your wife isn't a follower of the Lord, but is willing to stay with you, don't divorce her. 13 If your husband isn't a follower, but is willing to stay with you, don't divorce him. 14 Your husband or wife who isn't a follower is made holy by having you as a mate. This also makes your children holy and keeps them from being unclean in God's sight. 15 If your husband or wife isn't a follower of the Lord and decides to divorce you, then you should agree to it. You are no longer bound to that person. After all, God chose you and wants you to live at peace. 16 And besides, how do you know if you will be able to save your husband or wife who isn't a follower?
(NKJV) 12 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.13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.14 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.15 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.16 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?
(NLT) 12 Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a Christian man has a wife who is an unbeliever and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. 13 And if a Christian woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. 14 For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not have a godly influence, but now they are set apart for him. 15 (But if the husband or wife who isn't a Christian insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is not required to stay with them, for God wants his children to live in peace.) 16 You wives must remember that your husbands might be converted because of you. And you husbands must remember that your wives might be converted because of you.
(NASB) 12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, let him not send her away.13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away.14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.16 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?
We are now dealing with a case in which our Lord did not comment. Paul is writing this to the Corinthians and it carries the authority of an inspired apostle. For us, the writing is just as valid and authoritative as if Jesus Himself had spoken it. One warning we must be careful to observe. In such passages where one person speaks a commandment of God, that commandment must be compatible with all other writings on the same subject. The concept of authority demands that no one verse will disqualify another verse, but support that other verse.
As an example, we have many passages that describe the fact that we are saved by faith. There are many religious groups that take these passages and say that we are saved by faith only. However by doing so, they are ignoring other passages which deal with works and other things which are also necessary for our salvation.
There is a phrase within this scripture context which appears to give a permission to a certain class, yet when we look at all scriptures on the subject, we find that there are limitations. Before we get to that passage we will look at the rest of the text. We have the case of a mixed marriage. One in which one party is a follower of Christ and the other party is not. The danger in this type of relationship is that the unbeliever will draw the believer away from Christ. Christ warned that family must not take us away from serving Him.
The opinion of Paul is that if you are already married, that you should remain so. Even if your spouse shows no signs of obedience to God or the gospel. There is no permission given to divorce just on the ground of the spouse being an unbeliever or in a lost condition. Paul continues in v.14 that the spouse is exposed to faithfulness and as a result could change their ways. The children are no longer in a totally wicked relationship, but have at least some godly influence in their lives. As a result the chance that they also will grow up to respect God is much greater than if both parents were unbelievers.
Why would the unbeliever not want to live with the believer? It is very obvious. The unbeliever does not want anything to do with God and wants no influence to remind them of His presense. Many of us have known brothers or sisters in Christ who after obedience to the Gospel were left by their spouses. This is very painful indeed. Many of the unbelievers continued in their fornication and evil ways. As a result, the believer was allowed to put them away for fornication. However if the unbeliever did not practice fornication and just did not want to live with the believer, there would be no basis to put the spouse away. This is what we call desertion. Does the believer have to continue in the marital duties? Of course not. It is apparent that the unbeliever wanted nothing to do with them. Does this give permission to marry another for either of them.
At this moment let us examine who has a right to marry for the answer to the above question.
In the case described in v.15 the only time in which a person is allowed to marry another is when the unbeliever commits fornication or marries another. If the unbeliever does not commit fornication, then this person falls under the command found in v.11. Many will use the language of v 15. not under bondage to indicate that the person is free to marry. The fact that they are not duty-bound to perform the marriage obligations and responsibilities does not give them the right to marry another. Only if the unbeliever were to commit fornication would this person be allowed the right to marry another. We live in a wicked society. We see desertion all the time. It is commonplace for men to leave their wives for any reason. As painful as it is to view this scenario, we must keep our emotions under control. As we look at each case, to determine if the faithful has a right to marry again, we must keep all the scripture that God has given us. This does not appear to be very fair for the believer. However with faith in God, this person can be a devout Christian. If however their lust burns so strongly that they feel they must marry again, they are taking a chance of becoming an adulterer or adulteress. Once again, Satan tempts you because of your lack of self-control (see v.5). Our passage in v.16 demonstrates what faithfulness has the potential to do. It is to convert the unbeliever. If the spouse remains faithful, it can cause the unfaithful to have a change of heart. It has happened in the past. Though usually the unfaithful is just glad to be apart from the godly influence that was hurting their conscience.
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