1 Corinthians 7: 12-13 Divorce of Unbelieving Spouse

Many who hold the “no divorce for any reason” position take a couple of verses from 1 Corinthians 7 out of context and use them to overturn scores if not hundreds of passages of scripture that would indicate something far different than the conclusion these people prefer.  They are insistent on their argumentation that as long as an unbelieving spouse consents to stay with their believing spouse that the believer is obligated by a command of scripture to stay in that marriage regardless of the fact that their unbelieving spouse repeatedly breaks the conditions of their covenant and regardless of the believing spouses having to break with their conscience in response to the command Paul gives in II Cor. 6:14-18 that we must not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

If these verses in 1 Corinthians 7 did in fact represent a clear universal command for all believers to obey, then our Lord’s exception clause, “except for pornia” that establishes the right for a faithful spouse to divorce an unfaithful spouse would be disallowed whenever the unbeliever wants to remain in the marriage.  Do you see the problem with this?  Not only would an unbeliever be free to commit sexual sins without consequences in this lifetime, but the believing spouse would be forced to engage in sexual relations with their unfaithful spouse exposing them to every venereal disease imaginable.  And that is just the physical danger that the believer would be exposed to in this scenario.  The worst exposure would be the damage done to their spiritual development and the spiritual development of any children from the marriage.  Matthew Henry in his comments on Nehemiah’s last chapter says that in unequally yoked marriages the children receive an undue influence from the unbelieving spouse.  My personal experience in a 27 year marriage to an unbeliever would strongly support his statements. And my children have made big strides in the less than three years since my divorce.

Seeing 1 Corinthians 7: 12-13 in this light has created a man-made doctrine that is inconsistent with Jesus’ exception clause and with much of scripture on the subject of unequally yoked marriages.  As I understand their teachings on the subject R. C. Sproul and John MacCarthur are among many in the body of Christ who disagree with this view as held by those who so much desire to restrict divorce more than scripture itself.  Sadly they want to restrict divorce to those who badly need to be freed from a godless partner and united to a fellow saint. 

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About Joe Porter

By the abundant lovingkindness and grace of God I have been in Christ for nearly 40 years. I live to love and serve God in whatever capacity He has in mind. And can do no other but to follow my conscience as scripture and reason guide me threw the shadow lands. I raised 5 children one of whom now sees clearly as he walks on streets of gold. God has blessed me after all these years with a godly, prudent wife. I cannot imagine a greater gift on the earth. I have a Masters of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. I own a business in Nebraska, but I live to serve God. I have preached in three different churches for a period of 10 years. I love preaching God's word. Because of my divorce I am not currently serving in any official capacity, but I know that the Lord has a ministry for me. My goal is to write a book on the topic of divorce when unequally yoked, and this blog is a step in that direction. No brother or sister in Christ should divorce their spouse solely upon the advice they find here or anywhere else for that matter. Immerse yourself in God's word, and go before the Lord--wait upon Him and He will make it clear when the time comes that you are called to repent of your unequally yoked marriage. Christ's continued blessings, Joe View all posts by Joe Porter

5 responses to “1 Corinthians 7: 12-13 Divorce of Unbelieving Spouse

  • Joe Porter

    Kari, thanks for your insights. It is generally thought that the two “biblical” causes for a just divorce are adultery and abandonment. For the past 3 plus years I have believed that a third is actually the most important reason for a biblically sanctioned divorce, which is being unequally yoked to an unbeliever. If your insights are correct on Matthew 19:9, then being unequally yoked is the ONLY biblically sanctioned reason for dissolving a marital union. I have been and will continue to explore this insight in scripture. Praise God for His everlasting lovingkindness.

  • Kari

    Many Christians will say that the only biblical grounds for divorce is sexual unfaithfulness or adultery.

    Jesus did not use the word for adultery in the exception clause. He used the word for unfaithfulness.

    If one committed adultery in Jesus’ day, while still under the law, they would not have been granted a divorce, but a stoning to death.

    Great insights, Joe.

  • Greg

    This is garbage. “Don’t be unequally yoked” or don’t marry a non believer. If you marry someone, did you pray about it, ask God? So you marry and then find out they’re an unbeliever. Lol sounds a lot like someone twisting scripture to accommodate they’re own will and desire.
    If a spouse cheats on you, you’re allowed to divorce. It says, “because of the hardness of your hearts this was given”. David sinned sexually, adultery, murder. Was he an, “Unbeliever”? Someone that would be classified an “unbelieving spouse “.

    Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call good evil, and evil good…

  • Joe Porter

    Unfortunately Rachel many otherwise conservative Christians have raised the marriage relationship or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the covenant of marriage to something akin to idolatry. They seem to worship it above everything else short of God, and they believe God sees this issue the way they do. They are willing to sacrifice Jesus’ exception clause, the rules on bilateral covenants, biblical passages such as Ezra 10 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, and brothers and sisters in need of repentance from unequally yoked marriages to their god. Their hatred for Christians who get divorced from unequally yoked spouses is truly shameful, but we pray that God will give us the grace enablement to begin turning the tide on this issue. Christ’s continued blessings!

  • Rachel

    It doesn’t make sense to stay with the person who is not faithful. Why would God make you stay? You cannot further His Kingdom with this kind of lifestyle. This would affect all the people around the couple so it will hurt more than just the one person.

    The Bible says (God says!) do not be unequally yoked, but this is unequally yoked. There is a line that is crossed by being unfaithful and those who hold to “no divorce for any reason” are ignoring it. If they saw examples similar to this one in other areas of life they would change their mind immediately.

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