In the day in which we live, it is utterly crucial for us as Christians to know the Word of God as it speaks to us of marriage, family, and the rearing of children. We live in a world that is wiser than God, or so it thinks – a world which advocates the perversities of homosexuality and lesbianism, and even the rearing of children under such God-dishonoring relationships. We live in a world which criticizes what the Bible says about the proper discipline and nurturing of children. We live in a world which has thrown out God’s Word concerning marriage and the sanctity, that is, the holiness, of the sexual union as belonging only and exclusively to marriage. We live in a world which ridicules purity, chastity, abstinence from sexual activity except in marriage with one husband and one wife until death do us part. All of these things the world holds in contempt.
If you, as a Christian, are to live godly, you must know the Word of God, you must know the will of your heavenly Father with regard to marriage, your sexual life, the rearing of children. To all of these issues you must find the answer in the Word of God. You must understand that you are not simply following a tradition. You are not simply following a cultural norm. But you are obeying the will of your Creator and Redeemer, whose will leads to peace and happiness and is good.
In the world, marriage, sex, family, children are viewed only carnally, that is, only in the shallow, earthly terms, terms of my happiness, my desires, what I think, and my pleasures. So, we read that marriage exists. If one wants to have a commitment, then he will marry. But if he does not want to have this commitment, then he need not marry. Or, marriage exists for me. What can this person do for me? So also children: children are to be considered, if one decides to have children. They exist in terms of my fulfillment. And the intimate, good gift of sex is again viewed in terms of personal satisfaction.
God’s saving grace is a total transformation in our thinking and feeling on these most fundamental areas in our life. Through the Word of God we now view marriage, living in marriage and families, and having children, totally different. We view them spiritually. We view them in the sense of how it all serves God’s purpose in our salvation.
One of the most practical passages in the Word of God on this subject is found in I Corinthians 7. In that chapter the apostle Paul was answering questions which the Corinthian church had written to him concerning marriage, concerning the single life, and concerning sexual union. In the first eleven verses of that chapter, Paul teaches us that the single life is indeed good. He teaches that the sexual union belongs to and is part of marriage. And he teaches us that marriage is for life. He tells the Corinthian Christians who lived in an immoral society, and he tells us as well, that it is Christ’s command that marriage be a permanent bond, a lifelong bond. Therefore, those who are married must not think in terms of separation (v. 10). “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband.” And in verse 11, “and let not the husband put away his wife.” A man and a woman, a husband and wife, may not separate at their pleasure. They may not dissolve their marriage for irreconcilable differences and then be married again to another.
Now, hear that word! Hear that word as a single person. Hear the word as a teenager. God says that, because marriage represents the most sacred and precious thing to God, namely, His union to His people in Christ, therefore marriage is a permanent bond. God’s union to us through Jesus Christ is permanent. Marriage is created of God to be a picture of that. Therefore, marriage is a permanent bond. That is the single, most important truth of marriage you must have before your eyes when you say, “I do.”
Therefore, the Lord goes on to say in this chapter, in verse 39, that you must marry whomsoever you will only in the Lord, that is, you must marry in one faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In verse 12 of that chapter the apostle addresses an aspect of the question sent by the Corinthians to which Christ Himself did not speak. He says, “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord.” Paul does not mean that he is going to express his own opinion apart from the Lord. He says, in verse 40, “I think also that I have the Spirit of God,” that is, he gives to us God’s instruction in the chapter. But he means to say that he will give God’s will on a question of marriage that Jesus had not specifically addressed, namely, the question of a marriage of a believer and an unbeliever. What about the marriage of a believer whose partner believeth not? That can be the case. Most likely that happened in Corinth, and it happens today when God’s grace converts one partner of the marriage and not the other. It can also happen when a man or woman says he or she believes and is willing to join the same church and confess faith but, after the wedding, that man or woman shows that it was not of the heart. Or, it can happen that someone disobeys the command of God when He says in II Corinthians 6, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with an unbeliever.” You allow yourself to become romantically involved with an unconverted and irreverent person and you marry him.
However it may have happened, the fact is that there are marriages which are between one who lives in loving attachment to Christ and the other partner of the marriage is a stranger to that union and is in spiritual darkness. What about that marriage? Again, the Word of God is very plain. Regardless of how it happened, the Word of God says, “Let him not put her away.” And, “Let her not leave him,” see verses 12 and 13. The calling of believers is in such cases that they are not to abandon or leave the marriage.
We ask the question: “Paul, will not their continuing in a marriage state with an unbeliever contaminate them and corrupt them?” Did not the apostle Paul teach that those who are saved by the blood of Christ must be a separate and holy people? My husband (wife) is living in determined disobedience to the Word of God. We were this happy-go-lucky couple. We thought we had a good marriage. We had no need of God. We were both on the way to hell. Now God has rescued me and brought me to the light of His salvation. Should I stay with him (her)? He is influencing the kids. Tension is running through our marriage. Does God want me to rear my children under such a circumstance? And what about the marital relationship of one bed. Does my being a believer constitute or necessitate my leaving this marriage so long as my married partner remains unbelieving? The answer of the Word of God is, again, very plain and very striking: “Your faith in Jesus Christ, rather than being a reason for separating from such a marriage, is the reason for you to stay and to keep that marriage intact insofar as you are able. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, says the apostle. And the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband. Else were your children unclean. But now are they holy.
The Word of God is teaching a principle there. That principle is: even one believing partner in a marriage makes the marriage holy, consecrated. Let us understand that. The word “sanctified” in that verse (v. 14), means to consecrate, to regard as sacred. It carries the idea of something that is set apart unto God. It can refer to the work of the Holy Spirit within our souls as a saved child of God when we are washed from sin and given a new desire to serve God. Then we are said to be sanctified (I Thess. 5:23), “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Therefore, that word can refer to that spiritual work of grace in the heart. The word can also refer to the fact that something or someone is associated, in an external way, with God. For instance, in the Old Testament, the priests were said to be sanctified, and all of the vessels used in the service of God were said to be sanctified (see II Chron. 29:19: the vessels which were sanctified). There it is referring not to the internal work of holiness in the heart, for priests’ garments and spoons and bowls used in the service of the temple are not made internally holy so that we would worship them. But they were sanctified in the sense that they were associated with the things of God.
The apostle Paul now says, “The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband.” That does not mean that the grace of internal holiness and purification comes through physical contact with a believing wife or husband. It does not mean that that believing husband or wife is actually made a holy person. That may be, by the grace of God through His Word. But the idea is that that unbelieving person is now separated and marked out from the world. The presence of even one believer lifts the marriage from being viewed as worldly. Now that marriage is viewed as sanctified. A certain external holiness is given to the marriage. Even though the unbelieving husband comes home and would still be that unbelieving husband, nevertheless, now that house is ordered by a believing wife, so that the house does not blare with acid rock, the meals are prepared and on time, there is an orderliness which has descended upon the house. The unbeliever has a believing mate living out their faith. And he sees the difference in her. She does not give her heart out to other men. For the Lord’s sake she is pure unto her husband. The believing, holy walk of the wife or husband descends upon the home.
The unbeliever, or the marriage then, is sanctified, placed under the influence of the gospel with one of two results. Either that unbeliever is now left without excuse, or, by the grace of God, this example of the believer comes to his own salvation. Listen to verse 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?” Hear also I Peter 3:1, 2: “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”
That has powerful implications. Do not miss them! The personal faith and the holy living of a husband or wife is a mighty power in the marriage. Paul is talking about the extreme case – the most difficult case, the almost unbearable situation – of the marriage of a believer and an unbeliever. And the Word of God says, through Paul, to the believer whose concern is that he live unto God, and who is aware of the temptations that are going to come to him, being married unto an unbeliever, the Word of God says, “Your godly living and your faith will be honored by God! Continue in that marriage. Walk godly. Live so that your husband or your wife now knows that the love of God has captured your heart. And for His sake, you do all things to please Him.” What a word that is to our marriages, to any marriage which experiences every problem that sin can make. The Word of God is saying, “The most important thing in your marriage is your personal commitment to live a godly, obedient life. Walk by faith. Obey God in your marriage. That is the mighty power. That is your calling.
As you confront unsolvable problems, as you come to the conclusion that you, perhaps, say that we were not meant for each other, or you are threatened with having bitterness in your heart against your wife and say that she will not change, or you say about your husband, “He doesn’t change. I didn’t know he was like this,” and all the complications come in by sin and all the twisted reasoning comes upon us; the Word of God says, “Live godly! Live by faith. Obey God. Live as God wants you to live as a wife or husband. Don’t look to the other person. Look to God and obey Him.”
That certainly means that there must be a solid, mature faith in Jesus Christ before you marry. When you establish your marriage, the most important thing is your commitment of faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, and standing in the obedience of faith to His Word. If you get so tied emotionally to an unbeliever, for whatever reason, then you have sinned. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: that is your calling in a single life. You must be solid in your faith.
This Word of God also teaches us, as I suggested just a moment ago, that our duty in marriage is not conditioned by the conduct or spiritual state of the other person. So often we find ourselves saying, “Well, I could submit if my husband were more understanding.” Or, “I could love if my wife were easier to get along with.” We are saying to God, “I cannot obey the word of God (what God tells me to do in my marriage) because of the other person.” And God says, “Nonsense!” God says, “I did not call you to do this on the condition of the other person’s actions or state. I call you to submit to your husband and to love your wife for My sake. And that relationship is unchanging. For My sake.” The Word of God says, “Your and my conduct in marriage is not to be conditioned by the conduct of the other married partner but must be determined by the will of God.”
Do you hear this Word of God? God has said to us that the married state is permanent. We are to live under the will of God, believing that God brings to us our husband or wife. Whether, by His grace, that is a believing marriage (both believers), or whether it is His will that there be one believer and the other is in sin, God says, “Maintain that marriage.” And God says to you in that marriage: “Live godly.” With this promise: He (she) that honors God, God will honor.
May God bless this word to our heart.
Our Father, we thank Thee for Thy holy word. And we pray that we may have the grace of obedience; that in this present evil world we may live godly, holy unto Thee; and that our conduct in our marriages and in all of our life may not be conditioned by what others do. But that it may always be out of the principle of love and obedience to Thee. Through Jesus Christ do we pray, Amen.