JohnSWilson3 Blog

Believing Wives and Husbands, Unbelieving Wives and Husbands

In the third chapter of Colossians Paul briefly remarks about how a wife and husband live Jesus’ life towards one another. This life in Christ is learned and displayed through the church as they meet in each others homes. In his first letter to the church in Corinth, in Chapter 7, Paul gave a lot of information about how wives and husbands live by the Spirit in oneness together, believers who were married to unbelievers, those who are not married, and a short discussion on slaves. An excellent source of what living by the life of Christ looks like as He manifests Himself to one another in our relationships. When Jesus Christ is our Lord, then He becomes our everything, our all as we learn Him as we live by His life. That has major implications in the basic relationships between a man and woman including working relationships.

I felt like I needed to continue this learning of Christ in relationships. While Paul gives a brief idea of what Christ’s life looks like between a wife and husband in Colossians, Paul has had much to say about how that relationship looks like in his letter to the Corinthians. Remember that Corinth was like Colosse in that they were both Greco-Roman cities, except that Corinth was very large and very active, having a large diverse ethnic population with a huge slave population due to the mercantile business that made up most of Corinth’s business. As such it was a place seething with idolatry and evil. The mix and divisiveness of wives, husbands, children, slaves, and masters in the households of Corinth must have been even more prominent in Corinth. As they met from house to house lives were changed and the miraculous work of Christ was seen often being worked in each others households, to the point that the miraculous was often expected and looked for more so than Christ Himself. The work of Christ became more important than Christ Himself, a form of idolatry to the Christians. This extremism in the church in Corinth because they met in the households eventually affected the marriage relationship and they even asked Paul if “it was good for a man not to marry”? This church did not have Christ as head of their gatherings and as a result they were divisive over many things. Apparently not only were they jealous over who was in charge of their gatherings but they were also pitting married couples against those who were not married, somehow thinking that single life was more important than married life and vice versa. How sad! The purpose of our gatherings are not about us, but about knowing nothing “except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” We are members of one body, if you are single or married it does not matter, there is no single or married distinctions in the body of Christ, “but Christ is all, and is in all.” We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and are called to function equally as we meet together.

As the church gathered together in each others homes, some who attended may not know Christ. It could also be that some who gathered and were part of “the family of believers” came without their husband or wife because their husband or wife were not a follower of Jesus Christ. Obviously this would bring a new dynamic in the couples relationship if they were married to an unbeliever. A dynamic allowed by the Lord so He might display His grace and truth. By living a shared life together with the body of Christ they learned Christ, learning to live by His Spirit. This would profoundly affect their marriage relationship! For those who are married, Paul reminds the Corinthians that when a person received Jesus Christ as Lord, their marriage partner must also confess Jesus as Lord to be in Christ. But some may be unwilling to accept the Lord. We have to remember, especially if it were the wife who was the believer, her husband literally owned her as property. To be a believing wife and be married to an unbelieving husband she was now placed in a volatile situation, a situation where her faith is greatly tested in living out the life of Christ. So Paul gives this word of advice that Jesus had not mentioned from the gospel accounts, but has every weight coming from Jesus Christ in Paul: “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.” This would enable Christ’s life to be manifested through the believing husband or wife to their unbelieving partner. Perhaps the church might gather together in these households, especially for the believing husband and the good news of Jesus Christ and His life, being manifested by the church, could come to those in their household by believing the message and receiving Christ Jesus as Lord!

“But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.” If there is a situation where the unbelieving partner is abusive and harmful I think this would be something the believing husband or wife should consider. While God hates divorce, this reference is specifically related to believing marriage partners because it does not show the beautiful picture of Christ and His Bride. Although in this world, no matter if they are believers or not, the consequences that occur because of divorce can be devastating, another reason for God hating divorce, the consequences tend to be very hurtful for all involved. Christ cannot divorce Himself from His Bride, they are one in each other. But if someone is unbelieving they are not a part of Christ and therefore do not belong to each other in God’s eyes.

The church should be involved in helping and loving these couples, living by Christ’s life, clothing themselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” bearing “with each other” by looking after those who have been hurt in society. For a believing wife to divorce herself from her unbelieving husband and his household would be to either force her to go back and return to her parents home or to live with another household where the church gathered. If not she would find herself on the streets or as a slave in perhaps greater distress than when she were married to an unbeliever. How important it is for the church, the body of Christ to meet from house to house, to live by Christ’s life towards one another, to care for one another, to display His grace and truth to everyone in the homes that they gather in!

For those who are single believers, and if you marry, how important it is to marry those who “belong to the Lord.” Look to the “family of believers” and be alive with Christ and let His peace and life direct you in all matters! Let Him so dwell in you that however He leads you follow!

3 Comments so far
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One thing not taken into account in your remarks and conclusions is that this was written to people living within the confines of the laws of that time. For example, a woman divorced from her husband in those days was a whole different issue than it is today. For example a woman in those days without a man of some sort– a father or a husband or a male relation— “looking after her” was considered abandoned by God and piece of worthless trash. Today, it’s usually only “c”hurches who treat single women that way. Secondly, another thing I don’t think I’ve EVER heard or read (in reading Christian material concerning troubled marriages) is advice about how to deal with truly insane spouses. I don’t mean just depression, but really crazy pants dangerous. ALL the Christian selp-help books I’ve ever seen, if the advice in them is followed when you’re dealing with a truly insane person, the sane spouse ends up becoming a life time victim. And this is something the church (all of them) never seems to know how to deal with.

Comment by Dona

Hi Dona, thanks for the comments. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I thought I had alluded to what would happen after a woman, if divorced left her husband in the blog, but perhaps didn’t make it clear enough. Towards the end of the blog I did mention the issue with the unbelieving partner, e.g. where divorce would be something a Christian could do in the case of an unbelieving spouse and in danger of their life. Thanks so much for your comments. Because of those not living by Christ’s life, abusing others in the name of Christ, much emotion is tied to these few verses and I hoped I came across in much love as I could. Satan truly is the great deceiver who can twist Scripture to fit his purposes of stealing, killing, and destroying God’s people. God bless you sister.

Your brother,


Comment by John Wilson

I, myself a strong believer of God and his words am going through a seperation from a believing wife. Out of angry she packed and left for the 7th or 8th time. I have decided to let her go and just pray for her, but at this time I have grown weary of it all and will not pursue her anymore. I will live a life of not dating or having anything to do with the opposite sex. I never abuse her in any way, even those she or others may disagree. Throughtout our marriage of 5 months i have always taken care of her spiritually, physically, and mentally, but nothing seemed to please her. She wanted her way about everything and would always place blames on others including me. May the Lord bless and keep her.

Comment by Curtis Shields

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