We now come to the passage in which Paul speaks of what has often been denominated: the matter of mixed marriages

This passage reads as fellows: “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother have a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him (put him away). 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. 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 (in peace). For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how (what) knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” 

We should notice that Paul emphasizes that what he says here concerning “the rest,” that is, concerning those families and relationships between husbands and wives where one is a believer and the other is not, is a matter in which Paul had no direct revelation from God. He had no explicit teaching of the Lord Jesus on this point. Paul’s teaching was not such as he had received from God through the medium of the other apostles. See Gal. 1:11. Concerning the Lords Supper he had received a very definite revelation “from the Lord.” See I Cor. 11:23. Also concerning the relationship between husband and wife he had a definite and explicit word from Christ himself, as we have pointed out in our former essay when we commented on the verses 8-11. However, here Paul had no such definite word. Hence, he says, “I say” and “not the Lord.” 

It should be observed that this does in no way imply that this might for the very reason, that it is “not the Lord,” but Paul who speaks, be considered a teaching which would not be a rule of faith and conduct. It certainly is. And we do well to give heed and direct our life out of faith, according to God’s law, and unto His glory, the glory of His grace! 

In the matter of the so-called “mixed marriages” we should remember that there is a basic difference between the forbidden “mixed marriages” in the Old Testament dispensation and the matters spoken of in the verses 12-16 under consideration. 

What is that distinction? 

Briefly it is this: in the Old Testament it meart that Israel; the holy seed, was not to marry with the heathen nations of the land, but was called upon by the Lord to utterly destroy them with the sword of Jehovah. While in the New Testament dispensation the heathen nations too have the gospel preached in their midst. God calls his church also from the gentile peoples. And such were these Corinthians. They were those who were “not my people” but are now called (Ammi) my people; they were not the objects of mercy, but now they receive mercy! 

This basic difference between the fact that in the O. T. dispensation the gentiles were strangers of the covenants, outside of the commonwealth of Israel, and that now they are “join theirs” with the Jewish Christians of the hope of Israel, has far-reaching consequences also in the interpretation of the Scripture passage under consideration! 

Hence, we read in Deut. 7:1-6 as follows in part: “When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and has cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, even nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them: thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them: neither shalt thou make marriages with them. . . . . For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve ether gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly . . . . . For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” 

From this passage it is evident that Israel in the O.T. dispensation was limited to the natural descendants of Abraham. The nations, whom God would destroy and have Israel destroy, formed a “mixed” marriage when they married with the sons and daughters of God. Thus it was also before the flood, “And it came, to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters “were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose.” Gen. 6:1, 2. That was a bonafide case of “mixed marriages.” 

In “such cases” a man was surely under the “bondage” of sin. Such was Esau with his heathen wives, showing him to be a profane person. Gen. 26:34, 35. Surely Isaac and Rebekah saw the horrible implications of Esau’s “mixed” marriages for we read, “And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.” 

They saw before their very eyes that Esau was “under bondage” of sin as a profane person! 

Small wonder that Rebekah says to Isaac, “I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these are which are the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?” Gen: 27:46. 

How jealousy the LORD maintains the honor of His election of grace for His chosen people we again see in the days of Ezra. We read in Ezra 9:1-4 as follows, “Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel and the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass . . . .”

And what must be done with these wives (woman) and the children whom they begat by them? Both the wives and the children, born of them, must be put away. For in “such cases” in the O.T. dispensation the children were not clean by an unholy thing. Wherefore we read in Ezra 10:3, “Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away the wives and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my Lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.”

In these O.T. mixed cases we are dealing with quite a different situation from what we have in the church at Corinth in the N.T. dispensation!

Would anyone in the N.T. dispensation, who has married an unbelieving or a disobedient wife, also will to take the consequences of sending off the children with the putting away of such an errant wife? Methinks not! 

Nor is such the case in the N.T. dispensation, particularly in the church at Corinth. For here we are dealing with a situation which has been radically changed because now they, who were sometimes far, have been brought nigh through the blood of Christ Jesus. For the situation of the congregation of Corinth is such that they were all once heathen. But God has chosen them to the fellowship in the Gospel in Christ. He says to Paul in a revelation, “I have much people in this city.” Acts 18:10. And these people believed, as many as were ordained to eternal life at God’s time, under the preaching of the gospel. Thus there were case where either a man or a wife believed, while their respective wife or husband did not, or did not yet believe. However, even so, it was not a mingling of the holy seed, between Israel and the unclean nations. It was simply a case of a newstatus quo, a new spiritual status in the entire family. For the word had entered not merely to save an individual man or woman, but the “promise is to you and to your children, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts 2:39 (Joel 2:32).

A new status quo!

Christ had come into such a family according to the law of elective grace!

This implies that not the believing parent and the children live with the unbelieving parent, but the contrary is true that the believe lives with (dwells with) the believing parent and the children, be this parent the father or the mother.

Now such an unbelieving parent (either husband or wife) can live willingly with such a believing family or he will not will to live there. The term to be pleased is in Greek a compound verb: suneudokei, that is,mutually willing to swell with the believing family. It implies to agree to, to be “pleased together with.”Then there is no problem. But suppose such a person will not live in a family where the spiritual status quohas changed, and actually leaves the domicile, what then? There is then nothing to do about it. Let such a one depart. She changed her place of dwelling. Her leaving doesn’t change the sanctity of the family. The children are still holy because of the believing parent. 

However, such leaving is not tantamount to an annulment of the marriage before the face of God. marriage is a natural tie of the flesh, which is sanctified by faith in Christ through the Holy Spirit. The fact that the unbelieving partner in marriage changed his place of dwelling (choorizoo) does not affect the tie which God had effected in marriage! The fact that if one of the parents is an unbeliever it does not change or annul marriage, is evident from the instruction of Paul that if the unbeliever is desirous to remain that he be not put away!

Besides, it should not be overlooked that Paul still dominates the party who has left the family which is sanctified in Christ, a “husband” and “wife,” shows with indisputable certainty that such “leaving” does not annul the marriage-tie before the Lord.

Certain what Paul says in verse 39 is not conditioned by some such exception as “provided” he or she is not an unbeliever!”

And, as we hope to point out in a future essay, Paul does not say that a brother or a sister is not “bound” in such a case by the law of the husband, but rather that “in such cases a brother or sister is not under bondage.”

More of that in our consideration of the verses 17-24.