May A Christian Marry A Non-Christian?
Question: Is it scripture that a Christian should not marry a non-Christian?
Answer: If the questioner is asking for a specific command to marry a Christian or one forbidding marrying a non-Christian, as happened in the Old Testament, then he will look in vain. It is also wise to remember that all of God's teaching for us does not come in the form of commands, because there are also approved examples, direct statements––in the form of declarations, promises, exhortations, commands and questions––and necessary conclusions used in the New Testament to convey the will of God.
Likewise we need to remember that Paul's instructions to believers who were married to non-believers did not include a companion command or teaching that they leave such a marriage. In fact, he told them by inspiration of the Spirit not to depart from such a marriage (1 Cor. 7:12-16). If such a mixed marriage were sinful in itself, as in the case of Old Testament teaching (Neh. 13:23-27), then terminating the marriage would again be required as done by Nehemiah. In the absence of such clear teaching that it would be a sin so to marry, one would be hard-pressed to prove the sinfulness of such a marriage. Even 2 Corinthians 6:14, sometimes misapplied to believer-unbeliever marriages, is found in a context of fellowship with false teachers at Corinth, and would require a terminating such a marriage, because verse 17 says to come out––that is, end the marriage.
On the other hand, there are some principles which do demonstrate the lack of wisdom in marrying one who is not a disciple of Christ. (1) Authority: Holding to the same authority (Col. 2:6; 3:16). When marriage partners hold to different authorities/standards, they will forever battle over what is right and what they ought to do in many instances. To invite these battles when they could be avoided is to foment strife and conflict, one of the leading causes of marital problems, including divorce. (2) Priorities: Having the same set of priorities (Mt. 6:33; Col. 1:18). When one partner prefers the material and the other the spiritual, there is bound to be turmoil. The worldly mindset does not mix well with the desire to go to heaven. (3) Rearing Children: Preventing problems with children's divided loyalties (Eph. 6:1-4). When one parent thinks a Sunday at the lake is just as good as a day of worship and Bible study, the immature children immediately form their preferences in activities and in parents! How much better is it when they parents speak and lead with one mind! In some ways, the parents are already "divorced" from themselves and from their children. (4) Encouragement: Needing the help of one's spouse to go to heaven (Tit. 2:4-8; 1 Pet. 3:1-7). The Lord knew we need all the encouragement we can get to serve Him and to go to heaven. When the encouragement of the closest and dearest one on earth is missing, how lonely and how dreary life can be.
While the New Testament does not specifically tell us that it is sinful to marry one not a Christian, it does reflect the divine wisdom of marrying a believer. These principles describe what marriage ought to be in all of the areas identified. Only then can the two truly be one flesh.
Bobby L. Graham