1 Corinthians 7:12-28
But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother has a wife that believes not, and she be pleased to dwell with him…
To the rest, those cases in which one party was a believer and the other not (mixed marriages), "speak I, not the Lord." Yet, while St. Paul does not claim to expound and apply a formal law, he must not be considered as abnegating for the time his apostolic office and giving an opinion simply personal. The decision pronounced here is a very weighty one, and obviously it is an utterance of God's will. "If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, what shall he do? That depends on the wife herself. The initiative step is not with the husband: "If she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away." So of the wife with respect to her husband. Obviously, then, personal will is contemplated, and the difference between marriage where both parties are Christians, and marriage where only one party is a Christian, lies in the fact that, in the latter instance (mixed marriages), the continuance of the relationship is contingent on the adaptiveness of the parties each to the other and their ready disposition to be a mutual source of happiness. The will of the Lord is that they keep together, and they should endeavour to fulfil this will, but if controversies exist and the true ends of marriage are not only not met, but cannot be met, then at the option of the wife, the husband may put her away. The converse holds good, so that in the case of either party, individual will may interpose a bar to the continued union. "God hath called us to peace." In such a solemn act, no wilfulness, no passion, no worldly and selfish motives, must have place. "Peace," and "peace" only, can warrant the step. And in connection with "peace" he presents two views, one antecedent, the other subsequent, to the statement, that "a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases." A Christian husband or wife sanctifies the marriage tie, and accordingly it was pleasing to God that the relationship should be perpetuated. "I am not the rose," says a Persian proverb, "but I live with the rose, and am therefore sweet" What grace comes to us through the tender associations of life, much of it unconscious, silent and secret, asking no leave, provoking no resistance, floating into us on the air and mingling with our blood, sweetening and purifying we know not how, and all the more precious because our agency is for a while quietly set aside, and the Spirit of the blessed Jesus asserts his Divine supremacy! "Children" too! The declaration is strong and unequivocal: "They are holy" Age was before the Fall; childhood came after; and childhood had net been possible but for the promise of the "Seed of the woman" antedating her other offspring. "Of such is the kingdom of heaven. Baptism does not create this holiness, but acknowledges its existence, and testifies, on the part of God and on behalf of the Church, that "your children" are in Christ and therefore "holy." What a motive this, that the marriage relation in these "mixed marriages" should be maintained! What an appeal to instinct, to memory and hope, to all the truest and noblest sentiments which are the strength and stay of home! All the grandest influences of Christianity come from the heart of Christ to our hearts; and whenever intellect is perplexed and doubts arise and logic confesses its weakness, we fall back on the great, sure, primal instincts of the heart, and work thence and upward into light and assurance. "Your heart shall live forever," and because it shall "live forever," it lives now amidst intellectual conflicts and bewildering questions with an inherent testimony to Christ and his truth such as could only spring from the immovable consciousness of its mortal birthright. Turn now to the subsequent statement contained in the sixteenth verse. Hatred and contentions may arise; if incurable, "peace" must be had by separation. But St. Paul is exceedingly anxious to prevent a severance of the marriage tie, and hence appeals to the believing husband or wife to continue in the holy relationship in view of the possible salvation of the unbelieving partner. By some learned men this interpretation is contested. According to their view, St. Paul meant to express uncertainty, to throw doubt on the sacred utility of the marriage union with regard to its prospective bearing on the salvation of the unbelieving party, and virtually to advise the believer to look after his or her own spiritual interest. This is not like St. Paul. It is not in accord with his generous solicitude to impress upon the parties the sanctity of their union. It is at variance with the declaration that Christianity recognizes the sanctification of the unbelieving party by the believing. It conflicts with his statement concerning the "holy" children, or at least abates much of its force as a reason why the marriage should not he disrupted. Congruity must be maintained, and congruity in this instance - so it seems to us - demands that this verse, "What knowest thou," etc., should be construed in close sympathy with the context. A break here would not only be at the expense of the general argument, but a violation of unity at its most essential point, viz. as a nexus between what precedes and what follows. Understand what the time was. Outwardly the sceptre of Rome ruled, tranquillity was maintained, and the disturbances which came on some years later scarcely gave a threatening sign of their approach. But, notwithstanding this condition of things, the foundations of society were undermined, and the instincts of men, though unable to foresee the changes that were to occur, were conscious of impending revolutions. Unrest was common, and unrest never appears alone. A host of apprehensions, an undefinable dread, a disposition to exaggerate dangers, never fail to attend it. St. Paul's disciples could not escape this atmospheric feverishness, and consequently one of his solicitudes was to keep them contented with their allotments in life. If Christianity proposed to regenerate human society, one of the conditions on which this vast result rested was: "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called" to be a Christian. Whether circumcised or uncircumcised, let him remain satisfied. Was he a servant? "Care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather." Providence that had the past on its side was the best providence for them. "Therein abide with God," Was not this contentment one of the elements of that sanctification in marriage, and one of the means of holiness in children, and again one of the agencies for the furtherance of the Spirit's work in the unbelieving husband or wife? To this one point all the lines of his thought converge, viz. let peace be your object, and, in order to attain it, be contented with your position. Beyond question, St. Paul ardently desired to see certain of these positions changed, but he would not have his disciples to be agitators and revolutionizers. Is this a plea for blind conservatism, for an Oriental lethargy, for an unaspiring and unhoping slavishness to things as they were? Does the argument forestall progress? Nay, at that very moment a mighty revolution was going on in society. Christianity guarded all rights and interests; Christianity protected the marriage institution; Christianity, in due time, would make the slave a freedman. But "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," and Christianity must be left to do its work according to God's method. - L.
Parallel VersesKJV: But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.