CR News

Married to an Unbeliever (2)

There is another argument, not mentioned in the last News, which is used by some professing Christians in favour of remarriage. "But when I divorced, I was an unbeliever," they protest, or, "But when I remarried, I was an unbeliever," as if their unbelief at that time enabled them to remarry while their spouse is living. However, marriage is a creation ordinance; it is not a sacrament, something only for the church. Marriage was in the world before the fall and before the gathering of the church. Through this creation ordinance, God makes two believers or two unbelievers or a believer and an unbeliever one flesh. This is a vital point for professing Christians who are divorced and remarried. Marriage is an unbreakable bond for believers and for unbelievers, as a divine creation ordinance. Thus remarriage while your husband or wife is living—whether or not you were a believer on the day of your remarriage—is continuous adultery (Matt. 19:9Mark 10:11-12Luke 16:18Rom. 7:2-3). Thus the Scriptures command all divorced people to "remain unmarried, or be reconciled to [their spouse]" (ICor. 7:11). Christ calls this making yourself a eunuch "for the kingdom of heaven’s sake" (Matt. 19:12). The disciples, like many today, staggered at this (10). Jesus responded, "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given … He that is able to receive it, let him receive it" (11-12). God’s elect are "given" this grace and so are able to "receive" "this saying." However, "All men cannot receive this saying," and so they foolishly remarry and commit the sin of continuous adultery (Matt. 19:9Mark 10:11-12Luke 16:18; Rom. 7:2-3).

I Corinthians 7:14 provides an additional consideration why a Christian should not divorce his or her unbelieving spouse: "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." That is, don’t divorce your unbelieving spouse (12-13) for he or she is sanctified by you, the believing spouse (14).

But what does "sanctified" mean here? Sanctified here does not mean true, inward sanctification wrought by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. For the spouse is spoken of as "unbelieving" (14) and not saved (16). Sanctified here does not mean either that the unbelieving spouse has more respect for the Christian faith than most unbelievers. This may or may not be his or her attitude, but it is not the meaning of "sanctified." Sanctified here does not even mean that the unbelieving spouse is more likely to be saved than other unbelievers. Humanly speaking, this may be the case, but the text says that the unbelieving spouse "is sanctified," not "may well become (inwardly and spiritually) sanctified" (in the future).

So what does it mean? It is obviously not full biblical salvation, or even some partial salvation, for there is no such thing. The key to the interpretation comes from the context. An unbeliever and a believer are married to each other, so the question is: Is the unbeliever going to pollute the believer? In the Old Testament ceremonial law, if that which is clean comes into contact with that which is unclean, the clean does not make the unclean clean. Instead, the unclean makes the clean unclean. Well, the unbeliever is unclean, totally depraved, but he is joined in the most intimate union of marriage with a believer, who is clean. Surely then this union makes the believer unclean? Certainly in any other union or friendship with an unbeliever, the believer is corrupted by the unbeliever. But in a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever, the unbeliever is not unclean to the Christian spouse. The child of God can live, eat, drink, commune, sleep and rear children with his or her unbelieving spouse with a good conscience and not be defiled. (Remember, I’m speaking of an already existing mixed marriage; I’m not saying that believers should marry unbelievers [39].) The Christian must know that the Triune God does not view his or her married life with an unbeliever as impure or shameful. Jehovah approves of the believer’s continuing to live with his or her unbelieving spouse in marriage. Thus a Christian must not divorce his or her unbelieving spouse (12-13), "For the unbelieving [spouse] is sanctified by the [believing spouse]" (14).

I Corinthians 7:16 supplies another consideration why a Christian should not divorce his or her unbelieving spouse: "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" You say, "We’ve been married for many years and I’ve prayed so often, but my spouse is still not converted." God raised you from the dead spiritually; He can do the same for your spouse. You don’t know what it is God’s purpose to do, so don’t give up praying! God ordinarily uses the godly life of the believing spouse to convert the unbelieving, but elect, spouse (I Peter 3:1-2). So don’t give up hope! Pray and walk closely with the Lord, for God may use your prayers and life to convert your husband or wife!

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 10
  • Issue: 6
Stewart, Angus

Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)

Ordained - 2001

Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001

Website: www.cprf.co.uk/

Contact Details

  • Address
    7 Lislunnan Road
  • City
    Ballymena
  • State or Province
    Co.Antrim
  • Zip Code
    BT42 3NR
  • Country
    Ireland
  • Telephone
    (01144) 28 25 891851

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