In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, there is a part of this letter where Paul talks about marriage. Unfortunately, the professing Protestant church has used one verse in this whole letter as a means in which to believe God allows for divorce and then remarriage. The particular verse is 1 Cor 7:15
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.
This particular scripture deals with one or two situations, those who were married and come to salvation in Christ, and those who marry an unequally yoked (2 Cor 6:14) spouse. We find this passage in 1 Corinthians 7 and it follows what Paul says to the married.
1 Cor 7:10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
The following is what many refer to as a divorce in a case of abandonment.
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?
- “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.” In verse 12, we see Paul addressing a husband with an unbelieving spouse. If we notice Paul says I, not the Lord. This is clear that Jesus never spoke of this instance because these marriages are post resurrection. This is not saying Paul is using his own words because the Holy Spirit directs his words. The command is that the husband is not to put his wife away even though she is an unbeliever.
- “ And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.” Likewise, Paul commands that a wife is not to leave an unbelieving husband.
- “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.” Here we have reason that a husband or wife should not leave an unbelieving spouse. This is not to say things will be easy because we know from other scripture that a believer should not be yoked with an unbeliever. Paul speaks of this in his second letter to the church at Corinth.
2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
If we take into consideration that in this case a husband or wife comes to salvation in Christ and their spouse does not, they will be unequally yoked. Yet, the command is NOT to put away this unbelieving spouse. This is the foundation of the whole scripture from 1 Cor 7:12 to 16.
- “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.” Here is where many falsely believe that
since the unbelieving spouse leaves the marriage, the believing spouse is
free to divorce and remarry. However, this action would contradict other
scripture. Notice that this is referring to a brother and sister in the
Lord. A brother and sister in the Lord would not disobey God here because
they know that the marriage is a binding one- flesh covenant. The idea is
that a brother and sister are not bound
anymore to endure or be enslaved by an unbelieving spouse.
This refers to 2 Cor 6:14. The “peace” they have is not a license to remarry less they would contradict other scripture and break their marriage covenant vow. The peace they have is being in singleness and no longer yoked to an unbeliever and knowing that they are not to feel guilt or shame for the actions of the prodigal. Remember, Paul commands that they are not to leave an unbeliever. (vs. 14) Why would we believe that the marriage covenant is no longer valid if the unbeliever divorces his or her believing spouse? Scripture tells us otherwise.
- “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” – Who saves us from sin and death? If a spouse truly loves their unbelieving spouse, they truly would be a brother or sister in Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit works in the heart of those God calls to salvation. A believing spouse who gets divorced by an unbelieving spouse and remarries is saying that there is no hope for the unbelieving spouse. Would they pray to God for him or her to come to salvation because they love him or her as Christ loved us? The decision of a self-proclaimed believer to give up hope that God will not bring their prodigal spouse to repentance tells more of their heart.
I am very dismayed that the church would believe that the unbelieving spouse that divorces his or her spouse would have the freedom to believe he or she was divorced from a one-flesh covenant marriage. What is even more shocking is that a believing spouse would believe they could remarry someone else. Nowhere in scripture do we see that remarriage after divorce is anything but adultery. This certainly includes an unbeliever who abandons his or her spouse and then marries someone else. This would also include a believer who professes that they made a covenant vow of marriage regardless of the actions of their spouse.
The problem with the misinterpretation of this passage 1 Cor 7:15 is believing the covenant of marriage is broken. It is not. God certainly recognizes marriages of believers and unbelievers, therefore the one who breaks the vow of marriage will come under His wrath. Marriage is His design and not ours to change.
Then there are the questions…
“You mean to tell me I have to remain single the rest of my life if my spouse abandons me?”
Let us be honest, either you failed to obey God by marrying an unyoked spouse as a believer, or you made a vow of marriage as a professing unbeliever. Either way, there are consequences to your disobedience. A person who professes faith in Christ would not marry an unequally yoked believer expecting to believe that he or she can change that person. A person comes to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This only can happen if we preach the Gospel. We cannot save anyone, only Christ can. You are only asking for trouble when you yoke with an unbeliever. An unbeliever hates God and is subject to the god of this world. Satan uses unbelievers for his plans, and his plans are destruction of marriages.
I am telling you need to trust in God in this season. If your unbelieving spouse abandoned you, they just abandoned the only person that they may know to be the shining light of Christ. You need to pray for their salvation first, and then the restoration of your marriage will be an after thought. They need to see Christ in you after they have gone. If they remarry, they should be reminded that their vow with you was never broken. Unfortunately, you are up against a flawed clergy/laity system that will not only marry unbelievers, they will marry divorced people. These pastors too need prayer because there will come a day when these false teachers who sanctioned adultery remarriage will have to answer to the Lord.
How can the marriage be a marriage if we were both unbelievers when we got married?
God honors your vow of marriage to your spouse just as much as He honors your spouse’s vow to you. You are both responsible to the vow and it matters not if you claim you did not know Him when you married. God honors ALL first covenant marriages between a man and a woman regardless of race, religion, or creed. Case in point …
Genesis 39 7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master's(Potiphar) wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
8 But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;
9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
Joseph surely recognized Potiphar’s marriage to his wife because he did not want to sin by sleeping with Potiphar’s wife. This was an Egyptian marriage sanctioned by God. Joseph understood the consequences of adultery.
As you can see, clergy have abused and misinterpreted this one verse (1 Cor 7:15) for quite some time. They use this verse to not only approve of the dissolution of God covenant marriage; they use this verse to promote adultery remarriage. This has incredible consequences. I am deeply saddened by the many who abandoned their covenant spouse, and I am even more saddened by the many who believe their marriage ended by the actions of an unbeliever.
Please, I urge you to seek the council of God’s word. This is a salvation issue and must be rectified before it is too late. If you believed your marriage ends on abandonment and you remarried, you are in adultery. You must break this adultery and repent of your sin. God is merciful, and full of grace to the humble and contrite heart. Remain in Him, for He is your refuge and your strength.
In Christ’s love,