The Burden of Unbelieving Spouses – 1 Corinthians 7:10-16

The twelfth message in the 1 Corinthians Study.
(Find the other messages from this series here)

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When Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, he dealt with some very specific issues because he was writing to real people with real problems.

The Corinthian church was made up of real people with real problems. Because they are real people with real problems, we can easily identify with them and relate to them.
However, because they are real people, not merely example or fictitious characters in an allegory, there are parts of their story that we do not resonate with or that we simply do not relate to…

This passage of scripture deals with the specific issue of believers who are married to unbelievers.

We are giving an entire message in our series to this passage because it’s a part of the Corinthian letter that we are covering AND because we have several people in our church who may feel today that this passage and this message are exactly where they are at right now.

This is vital for them, but it’s vital for all of us because we need to be praying for the people in our congregation who are married to non-believers. We need to be praying for those unbelieving spouses.

Our single people also need to see the heartache that comes from marrying an unbeliever…

Our married couples that are made up of 2 believers need to be reminded that they are not just married, they are married believers and that should- that will shape their marriage.

Let’s read this passage together: 1 Corinthians 7:10-16

In 1999 David Phillips read the box of one of his Healthy Choice frozen dinners, of a promotion they were doing with an airline. Anyone who sent in 10 barcodes from the frozen dinners would get 1,000 frequent flyer miles in return. Get enough of those miles and the airline lets you fly for free.

He figured the math and realized that 1,000 miles had way more value than some of the cheaper products in the Healthy Choice line—namely, 10 servings of Healthy Choice pudding. So, he jumped into a van and literally bought every single cup of pudding he could find.
Phillips purchased 12,150 cups of pudding in all, and to avert suspicion at the stores he simply said he was stocking up for Y2K.

Healthy Choice, clearly not anticipating that much interest in their product, resisted but all the same ended up forking over the 1.25 million miles to Phillips.
Not only that, Phillips also got the Salvation Army to peel off most of the barcodes for him, in exchange for donating the pudding–which earned him an $800 tax deduction on top of everything.
For around two thousand bucks,
David Phillips and his family have been flying free for years.
Source Article

What Phillips found was we could call a loophole- he found a gap in the law and leveraged it to his advantage.

When Paul writes to the Corinthians- they have some really mixed up ideas about Marriage and the commands of God.

Some of the people were taking Paul’s teachings to an extreme, trying to take advantage of a loop hole.
They said, Paul told us we are free from the law, so we can do whatever we want. Paul told them to avoid immorality, specifically sex with prostitutes and adultery.

They then took that teaching to the extreme and said, well sex is apparently evil so I’m not going to have sex with my spouse. Paul told them that was not what intended or that the Lord desire for them.

Now, after dealing with those two extremes Paul must deal with some people that were attempting to do an end run around the commands by merely getting a divorce and remarrying who they wanted so that they could have sex with who they wanted and stay within the bounds of the law.

A bottom line for the beginning of this passage is you can’t get away with sin or specifically adultery on a technicality.

You will not get away with sin on a technicality.

A divorce does not justify adultery.

God’s desire is for every marriage to endure.
He established it as a lifelong commitment.

The vows of a marriage are to be faithful to one another for the rest of your lives, God will not give you a pass if you break your vow by divorcing your spouse and then committing adultery any more than he does if you commit adultery and then get a divorce.

They were attempting to use divorce and marriage as a cover for their desire to have sex with other people. Paul said, no, if you are going to leave your spouse to then marry someone else, that’s still sin. That’s still wrong. Paul says, if a man or woman leaves their spouse, let them remain unmarried or be reconciled to their husband or wife.

Now, that wasn’t the entire command and we’ll get to the rest of it in a moment, but Paul was speaking to this specific issue that was taking place in the Corinthian church.

As Paul pointed out earlier in the letter, the underlying issue was their hearts- that they had this desire to do wrong and they were looking for excuses or justification to do the wrong that they wanted to do.

A divorce does not justify adultery and
Unbelief does not justify divorce.

Paul makes it quite clear that an unbelieving spouse is not grounds enough for divorce. The fact that your spouse doesn’t believe doesn’t give you justification for leaving him or her.

In fact, the exact opposite should be true- one member of the marriage becoming a believer should add to the life and endurance of the marriage, not take away from it.

Obviously there will be issues that arise from one spouse being a believer and one not- Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthian 6. He calls it being unequally yoked.

To be unequally yoke is an allusion to two oxen, or mules, or horse pulling a cart. An unequal yoke- or what connects them to one another and the cart will cause the animals to pull in competing directions or leave one with a greater load to bear than the other.

Those of you that are in marriages with unbelieving spouses you know that this illustration fits- that the makeup of your marriage often creates friction in your marriage and that your marriage is often a trial for your faith.

However, when you have the grace of God, the joy of the Lord, the guidance of the Spirit, and encouragement of your church family, it can be a great help to you in your marriage.

I’ll be honest, sometimes when I’m counseling in these situations and trying to be of help, I often want to say to the unbelieving spouse, you recognize that he or she probably would have left you years ago if weren’t for the peace and strength that God has given them? You might be frustrated with your spouse’s faith in God (and probably a good bit of that is conviction) but you owe God a debt of gratitude because He’s the only reason you’re not all alone!

A divorce does not justify adultery and
Unbelief does not justify divorce.
Belief leads toward redemption.

Now to understand where Paul is coming from in verse 14 when he says a believing spouse sanctifies an unbelieving spouse, you need to remember the argument that Paul made in chapter 6.

Paul told them that to have sex with a prostitute was two becoming one and that if they are one with Christ as a believer and they join with the pagan prostate they are joining Christ to a harlot which is highly inappropriate.

Paul now wants to clarify that doesn’t mean that when a believer has sex with his or her unbelieving spouse that they joining Christ to a pagan or sin- instead the believing spouse consecrates that marriage and that family.

Paul would say in Hebrews, the marriage bed is undefiled.

So within the bounds of marriage, sex is undefiled and there is no argument to be made that sexual relations with your unbelieving spouse is what Paul was referencing in chapter 6.

Paul goes further and says, who yet knows? Perhaps you will save your husband or wife?

God’s desire is for marriages to last, but God’s ultimate desire is for people to be forgiven and freed from their sin.

God desires for your unbelieving spouse to become a Christian. That is his desire.

And what better opportunity is there for the gospel than if a believer is living with them, living out the commands of Christ, exemplifying the grace of Christ?

We work hard to bring people into contact with gospel.
Look at this stage?
Think about the efforts we are going to be putting forward this week…
We desire to bring the gospel to people and we will work hard to get people here for an hour next week so that we can live our the gospel before them and proclaim it to them.

How much better would it be if we could send the gospel back with them into their homes!

Believers that married to unbelievers, children of unbelieving parents, parents of unbelieving children- you are the gospel’s front line in the life of that person.
You are the gospel’s greatest opportunity in the life of those unbelievers- I call you to not run away from that, but to embrace it, to live your life fully in love with Jesus, fully transformed by His truth, fully shaped by the Spirit so that your life will be a compelling testimony of the gospel every day.

I know that your marriage is troubled.
I know your relationship is on the rocks.
I know that your heart is wounded, but let me encourage you this morning! The answer to all of those problems is the gospel, and you’re are carrying it with you every time you walk in the door- be sure that you are applying it in your own life, be sure you are living it out, so that it will lead toward the redemption of your home!

Do you remember the message at the beginning of the year- our vision for the future?
Peter said in Acts 2:39 this promise is unto you and your children.

Paul’s desire is that the spouse and the children would be saved.
Paul’s hope is that the family will place their trust in Christ.

When Paul was in Philippi he was thrown in jail.
God rescued him in a miraculous way and he was able to lead the Philippian jailer to Christ. When he did he said, call upon Christ and you and your household will be saved.
Paul was confident that if this father and husband placed his faith in Christ that the wife and children would follow his lead.

We find that to be the case,
When a father is active in church the likelihood that his children will be active when they are adults is more than 33% higher.
Source

Daniel Voss who is a FWB Pastor in Arizona recently shared about how they focus on reaching men because they know that husbands and fathers lead the way for their families.

He said that in a worship service he could see form where he was on the stage that throughout the song service a family of three was sitting together and the mother was worshipping the Lord with all of her heart. The father stood with his arms crossed. So did the 15-16 year old son standing next to him.

The service was a little different that they broke up the message with a couple of songs that related to the sermon. After the first point he could see the father was starting to sing along, to move his lips.
During the second song the father was singing.
During the third song the father lifted his hands in worship.
He said, immediately the son followed his father’s example.

Husbands and Fathers have been blessed with an incredible amount of influence.

Dads…
God has blessed with the great honor of leading our homes.
Our kids follow our example.
They are watching you. More than anyone else, they are watching YOU. Their hearts will reflect yours more than anyone else’s.

A divorce does not justify adultery and
Unbelief does not justify divorce.
Belief leads toward redemption, but
Redemption requires willing hearts.

Paul says in verse 15 that if the unbelieving spouse departs, they depart and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.

Redemption requires a willing heart.

If the unbelieving spouse remains unmoved and leaves the believer, the believer is no longer bound to them. But God has called us to peace.
Your unbelieving spouse leaves you, God has called you to be filled with his peace, not rage toward them, not bitterness, not revenge, peace.
Not an immediate need for a new man or woman in your life, not a hasty second marriage,
peace.