As has become our tradition, today is a fifth Sunday. We use today
to have a congregational meeting, but prior to that, we use our
lesson time to address questions that have been submitted by our
members or guests. I do not have this particular lesson because I
believe I have all the answers, but because I believe the Bible
will provide us with answers to the questions we need answered in
order to glorify God. Additionally, I am not answering this
question in order to short circuit your own study. I hope if you
ask a question, you will study on your own to learn God’s
answers and simply use what I share here as a jumping off point.
Today’s question is: “Is it wrong for a Christian to
marry a non-Christian?”
This is a tough question and I know that opinions vary and
emotions run deep on this one. I want to remind you that our goal
is to say what the Bible says and not try to make the Bible say
what we want.
Clearly, the Bible speaks of Christians married to
demonstrates Timothy’s believing mother was married to a Greek.
The implication is that he was not a believer.
demonstrates Christians were married to non-Christians as Paul
taught them not to divorce unbelieving spouses if they were
content to live in the marriage.
demonstrates sisters married to men who did not obey the word and
how, through continued submission, they might win their husbands
without a word.
The Bible provides examples of and talks about Christians
married to non-Christians. It is not condemned in these passages.
In fact, those in this situation are specifically told to remain
in this situation.
No authorization is given to leave such marriages.
19:9, Jesus explains that whoever divorces his wife and
marries another, commits adultery. He provides only one exception.
If the person divorced their spouse for sexual immorality, then
the new marriage is not adultery. The necessary inference of this
is that the divorce is only lawful if for sexual immorality. It is
not lawful to divorce a spouse simply because they aren’t a
This highlights what we noticed moments ago in I
Corinthians 7:12-13. Not only are Christians not
authorized to divorce a spouse simply because they are not a
Christian, they are specifically commanded to stay with them.
But what about II
Many Christians turn to II
Corinthians 6:14-18 to claim the Bible says it is sinful
for a Christian to marry a non-Christian. The text says, “Do not
be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” Certainly, if you are
talking about marriage and then come to this passage it seems to
apply. However, we must not rip this passage out of its context to
make it say what we want.
Corinthians 6:17. This passage says regarding the unequal
yoking that the right response is to separate and come out of the
midst of them. If this passage is talking about marriage, then we
have a contradiction. I
Corinthians 7:12-13 says very clearly that a Christian is
not to separate from a non-Christian when they are married. The
only conclusion is II
Corinthians 6:14-18 is not talking about marriage.
What is the passage talking about then? Notice the
surrounding verses, as if bookending this section. II
Corinthians 6:11-13: “We have spoken freely to you,
Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us,
but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak
as to children) widen your hearts also.” Notice also II
Corinthians 7:2: “Make room in your hearts for us.”
Between these bookends of “make room for us,” Paul says,
“Don’t be yoked with unbelievers.” He is starting the
thematic point he makes in the latter half of this letter
encouraging the Corinthians not to submit to those who are
teaching a different gospel and are disparaging Paul. Paul is
asking the Corinthians to close their hearts to unbelievers who
pose as apostles and open their hearts to him and the true
apostles. Read II
Corinthians 10-12, they are filled with this same
sentiment. Notice especially II
Corinthians 11:12-15; 12:11-13.
As Paul makes this point, he quotes from Isaiah
52:11-12, a prophecy of Israel and Judah’s release from
captivity. They were told to depart and get away, not touching any
unclean thing. Paul adopts that point for these Christians who had
been set free from paganism. They were coming out of captivity, he
didn’t want them to submit to it again by yoking themselves with
teachers who were not apostles and were not Christ’s. What good
would it do to become a Christian if they turned around and went
right back into their past errors.
But wouldn’t you say it is unwise for a Christian to
marry a non-Christian?
Sometimes when I’m talking with those who say it is a sin
for a Christian to marry a non-Christian, they follow up with this
question. Let me say that my answer to this question doesn’t
change things. Even if we all agree that it is unwise, that
doesn’t make it a sin any more than eating chicken fried steak
is a sin though many would suggest it is unwise.
Is marrying a non-Christian unwise? All things being equal,
I admit, I believe a Christian marrying a non-Christian is not the
wisest course. I
Corinthians 15:33 says bad company corrupts good morals.
In many cases, a non-Christian spouse has led a Christian away
Having said that, my experience has been that marrying
someone who is a Christian doesn’t insure faithfulness. I’ve
heard of Christians who became atheists after marriage and
atheists who became Christians. Not to mention that Christian
divorce rate is in lockstep with non-Christian divorce rate.
Further, I’ve known faithful Christians to marry faithful
Christians and then one of them turns to error and leads the other
away as well. The fact is, making a rule up that declares marrying
a non-Christian as a sin is simplistic and doesn’t deal with the
The real issue is not whether it is a sin to marry a
non-Christian. The real issue is that whoever you marry, you are
responsible to fulfill your role as husband or wife until one of
you dies and you are responsible to maintain your relationship
with God no matter what they do.
Sadly, many parents, thinking they can manipulate their
kids into faithfulness by making them marry the right person, have
resorted to making up rules for God. Give your children wise
counsel, but do not make up rules for God even if you are only
doing so to try to protect them. There is a well-known group of
people in the New Testament who did that; they were called
Is it wrong for a Christian to marry a non-Christian? I
believe the Bible’s answer is “No.” What is wrong is for a
Christian to shirk his or her responsibility in a marriage, leave
the marriage or turn his or her back on God.
Again, I don’t claim to have all the answers. If there is
some passage or Biblical principle you believe I have missed, feel
free to talk to me about it. If you have a question you would like
to be discussed at some time, please feel free to let me know by
dropping it in the box outside my office or e-mailing it to me.
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ