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.  If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.  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.  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.  Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband?  Husband, how do you know whether you would save your wife? (I Corinthians 7:12-16)

In the last post we addressed the issue of a marriage that is unequally yoked.  I gave several reasons why this may be the case.  In this post we want to deal with the question — what is the believer’s responsibility in the case of an unequally yoked marriage.

First, if the unbelieving partner consents to live with the believer, the believer should not divorce the unbeliever.  (I certainly do not believe that if abuse is present the spouse is bound to this principle.)  Now the question is why should the believer remain in the marriage?

Two answers are given to this question.  1)  The believing partner’s presence and influence may be the means through which the unbeliever is saved.  The gospel’s power and presence should be evident  by the believer in the marriage.  Christ lives in the life of the believer (Galatians 2:20).  His very presence through the life of the believing partner bears witness to the unbeliever.  The believing spouse should not try to drill the gospel into the head and heart of the unbelieving partner, but is to live the gospel out and speak when appropriate.  Peter addresses this principle:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the Word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives — when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (I Peter 3:1-2)

This basic principle applies to both husband and wife — live out the gospel before the unbelieving spouse.  When the time avails itself, speak wisely, not preachy or with a condemning spirit, but lovingly.

2)  If children are involved, the presence of the believer is critically important for the Christian nurturing of the children.  This may work itself out in a number of ways.  The child may observe the godly behavior of the believing spouse, even if the marriage is difficult.  What a blessing and life lesson the child observes when his or her father or mother who is a believer responds in a godly manner in the relationship.  The child will see the difference of the attitudes, actions, and beliefs of the believer as well as the unbeliever.  As in the case with the spouse, the believing parent, living out the gospel, bears witness to the child.  Also the believing parent can ensure that the child is being brought up in “the discipline and nurture of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Now to the second truth found in this passage — “if the unbelieving partner separates, let is be so” (v. 15).  In this case the believing partner is free to remarry because the unbelieving partner has broken the marriage covenant.  In effect the unbeliever has deserted the believer which frees the believing spouse to marry again.

Let me get very personal here.  My father grew up Episcopalian.  Though the Sanfords were Baptists, my grandfather married an Episcopalian and it was my grandmother who raised her children in the Episcopalian Church.  Now, be sure that I am not being critical of the Episcopalian Church.  However, my father showed no signs of genuine conversion until I was eight years of age.

On the other hand my mother grew up in a very solid Christian home.  My grandfather Hill, who I very affectionately called, “PaPa,” was one of the godliest men I have ever known.  (I’m glad my grandchildren call me “Papa” for this very reason.)

As a young child my mother took me to Sunday School and church every Sunday.  She made sure I attended VBS, Training Union, Bible drills, and choir.  My father would attend only on special occasions.  My dad was definitely religious and moral, but as stated earlier, there was no evidence that he understood the gospel.  I remember very clearly the Sunday my Daddy got up at the end of a worship service in the Baptist Church that I grew up in, and walked down the aisle in tears after the invitation was given.  A few weeks later I saw him being baptized and from then on I saw a new man — one who walked with the Lord, one who made radical changes in his life, one who was deeply committed to my mother.

My mother’s solid faith and presence in an unequally yoked marriage led to the conversion of my father and gave me the opportunity to receive solid, Biblical teaching during my childhood years, although I was not converted until I  became an adult.

In the next post I will tell you about my conversion experience which was very similar to that of my father’s.  The point is — the believing spouse may be used of God to bring about the salvation of his/her spouse and children.  God works in mysterious ways!

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