OceanSide church of Christ

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II Corinthians 6:14, Marriage to Non-Christians

Victor M. Eskew


            It is very easy to pull a passage of Scripture out of its context.  When this is done, the application of the passage can be completely wrong.  Such has happened with II Corinthians 6:14.  Paul wrote:  “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…”  Some have applied this verse to marriage.  In his book, Premarital Counseling, H. Norman Wright states:  “When it comes to a believer and an unbeliever seeking marriage, the Scriptures clearly forbid the uniting of such a couple (see 2 Cor 6:14); this would be the standard for refusing to perform the ceremony” (p. 47).

            There are several points that can be made about this matter.  First, in the context of II Corinthians 6, Paul is not discussing marriage.  False teachers had entered into the congregation at Corinth.  They were trying to destroy both the person and work of Paul.  Apparently, some were giving heed to these men.  Paul, therefore, wrote to defend himself and his ministry.  He also exhorted the church to come out from the false teachers and be separate (II Cor. 6:17).  As true believers, the church should not be unequally yoked with unbelieving heretics. 

            Second, we find marriage in the first century church that involved a believer and an unbeliever.  In Paul’s first epistle to the church at Corinth, he addressed these situations.  “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord:  If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.  And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him” (I Cor. 7:12-13).  If these marriages are not lawful, why would Paul exhort his readers to stay in them?  (See also I Peter 3:1-6).

            Third, if a believer and a non-believer are not to be united, what is to be done if they are married?  What actions is the couple to perform to rectify the situation?  What actions is the church to take against the couple to bring them to repentance?  These are questions that those who hold to a false application of II Corinthians 6:14 cannot answer.

            Fourth, we agree that it is not wise for a Christian to marry a non-Christian.  At the outset of the marriage the couple is spiritually divided.  Too, there is a temptation for the Christian to leave the faith and be joined to a false religion for the sake of peace within the home.  This has happened countless times.  In addition, childrearing becomes difficult in homes that are divided spiritually.  Truly, much thought and prayer should be done before a Christian says, “I do,” to an unbeliever.