March 04, 2021 – Thursday
1 Corinthians 7:12-14 NIV
12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.
13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.
14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
You may find it unusual for Paul to write I, not the Lord but it is indicative on how careful he is in his writing. A few verses earlier he does almost the same thing when he wrote in verse ten, not I, but the Lord. As a result, we question how are we to take Paul’s writing when he says it is I, not the Lord?
If what Paul was writing was from the Lord, then it carries the effect of a command. When Paul provides an instruction that does not come from Jesus, then he is giving an apostolic instruction. His prior instructions, commands, from Jesus dealt with marriage between Christians, believers. Paul’s instructions are for marriages between Christians and heathens, non-Christians. Those instructions are very explicit whether you are a man or a woman (v12-13), If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. These cases would not be infrequent in Corinth where both likely came into the marriage as unbelievers and later one of them became a Christian, a follower of Jesus. And it happens still to this day.
Why though did Paul not suggest divorce? Verse 14 provides the answer, For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. Ellicott’s Commentary says about this, the purity of the believing partner in this union, being a lawful one, as it were, entirely overweighs the impurity of the unbeliever, it being not a moral, but a kind of ceremonial impurity. The children of such marriages were considered to be Christian children; and the fruit being holy, so must we regard as holy the tree from which it springs. Then Ellicott reminds us, It must be remembered that the “sanctification” and “holiness” here spoken of is not that inward sanctification which springs from the action of the Holy Spirit in the individual heart, but that consecration which arises from being in the body of Christ, which is the Christian Church for such sanctification and holiness can only come through believing in the risen Christ.
In a subsequent letter Paul would write (2 Corinthians 6:14), Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? There is good reason for such instruction for while we are to be in the world and not of the world. For this reason we need to be very careful not to let ourselves be conformed to this world instead of being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).
Short note, even when Paul writes I, not the Lord, we must not forget that all his writing was inspired by the Holy Spirit and should be taken as more than simple instructions. As such we should follow them as if they were commands from Jesus Himself since they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Prayer: Father God – Help us to take Paul’s words, his teachings, to heart and follow them, knowing they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Please be with us through all of our trials and tribulations as we do our best to follow Paul’s directions. – In Jesus name. Amen.