Tuesday, 22 July 2014
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? 1 Corinthians 7:16
In this verse, Paul certainly returns to the thoughts given in verses 12 and 13 which read –
“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. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.”
The reason for a believer not being allowed to depart from a non-believer has especially been given in verse 14 when considering the state of the children. Paul was very careful to note that the children are considered “holy” because of the marriage bond which exists, even if one is an unbeliever. Along with that most important of reasons, Paul gives another reason for the believer to remain with the non-believer, and he does it in the form of two questions:
“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?”
It very well may be that the non-believing husband or wife may come to salvation through the marriage by observing the conduct and witness of the believer. Our happiness or unhappiness in a marriage is of far less value than the salvation of even one person that we may no longer be in love with. Our lives are called to be witnesses to Christ, even in a marriage which is unsatisfactory.
The verse also confirms that the “sanctified” status of the non-believer which Paul spoke of in verse 14 had nothing to do with salvation, but was rather directed solely to the setting apart of the children as “holy.” Also, Paul is not saying that the husband or wife could actually “save” the non-believer. Only Jesus can do this. He is implying that their actions would lead to Jesus saving them. This should be obvious, but still is worth stating.
Having noted this about the connection to verses 12 and 13, it is also likely that the thought of verse15 is considered in this verse as well. That verse said –
“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.”
Taking that verse and tying it to verse 16 (our verse being analyzed now), Paul may also be saying that allowing the non-believing spouse to depart is acceptable because there is no way that they could know the outcome of the marriage. If they refused to allow the non-believer to depart as they wished because they were thinking they could “save” the non-believer, it could inevitably lead to strife which is in opposition to the statement that “God has called us to peace.”
So, in all situations, the onus is on the believer to 1) never voluntarily depart from the marriage; 2) to allow the non-believer to stay if they wish; and 3) to allow the non-believer to go if they wish. The free-will choice of the non-believer takes precedence, just as the free-will choice of an individual to accept or reject Jesus as Savior takes precedence. This free-will choice of the non- believer pictures the freedom God has given us in our marriage relationship to Him and shows implicitly that the doctrine of being “regenerated in order to believe” is false. Free-will is granted to humans concerning our relationship with Christ and free-will is granted to the non-believer to stay in the marriage or to depart from it.
Life application: God, through His word, asks us to be willing to sacrifice our own happiness for the sake of our marriage. Our choices, when self-centered, will inevitably turn out bad. But when we are obedient to God’s word, there is a chance that things will turn out for both our happiness and an increase in the kingdom through the conversion of others. Let us adhere to God’s word even if it is contrary to our happiness.
Glorious and wonderful God! How good it is to rise early and hear the light breeze on the leaves. It is marvelous to hear the birds coming to their morning activity, flitting about and singing the songs You have taught them. And the smells of the dawning day are vibrant and alive – flowers opening, coffee brewing, the dew on the grass. The morning is a special time where I can sit back and enjoy being in Your presence in a special way. Thank You for the morning time, O God. Amen.