Can a Christian be married to an unbeliever?

Q. I know the bible teaches that the believer is not to be unequally yoked together with the unbeliever. What if a believer did marry an unbeliever? Will the marriage be binding in the sight of God or should the believer be instructed he should put away the unbeliever and be free to marry a believer?

First, let’s examine the passage in the New Testament that you make reference to.

2 Cor. 6 – 7:1
14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 17 “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. 1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

We must be very careful in the way that we apply the Scriptures. The passage above does not discuss the marriage bond, marriage is not found in the context, and therefore, to apply these verses to marriage is wrong. I would go even one step further and say that to use the passage above to justify a divorce and remarriage is sinful. The context of the passage reveals that the problem with some of the members of the church at Corinth was a close association with Idolaters. It is evident that members of the church were participating with pagans in some of their rituals, and perhaps even promoted pagan concepts in their business dealings.

It is wrong for Christians to be so closely associated with that which is evil that it is difficult for people to tell the difference between a Christian and a pagan. Christians are to “come out from their midst and be separate” because we are to stand as “lights” in the world (Matt. 5:14).

To the Christian who is married to an unbeliever God says:

1 Cor. 7:10-14
10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. 12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.

This teaching is clear. God is a witness to the marriage bond between a believer and an unbeliever and he instructs the believer to “not divorce his wife.” “He must not divorce her.” “She must not send her husband away.” She must “be reconciled to her husband.” “The unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband.”

I don’t know how it could be clearer. Marriage is a sacred bond between two individuals. Even if one is an unbeliever, this in and of itself does NOT change the nature of this sacred relationship. In circumstances where a Christian is married to an unbeliever it is the responsibility of the Christian to work that much more diligently to profess Christ in word and deed, in every action and attitude, prayerfully “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7) with the desire to lead their spouse to Christ.

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