← Back

Why does the Bible say to not be yoked with unbelievers but then say that we should stay with an unbelieving husband/wife if s/he will allow it?

1 Corinthians 7:12-13

This seems like a contradiction.

2 Corinthians 6:14

NIV - 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?

Clarify Share Report Asked July 28 2014 Mini Anonymous

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie Supporter Housewife, Artist, Perpetually Curious
There are many higher moral truths in scripture that end up trumping other moral recommendations. While these sometimes seem like contradictions, it happens because righteousness is like a "target" and sin is missing the mark. The rules/commands God gives help us hit the target - but like most laws they have some adaptability for circumstance and motive. For example, being quick to anger or responding wrongly in wrath are sins, but wrath or anger itself can also be righteous. It is good to be 'all things to all people', but we cannot align to a custom or culture if it stands against God. Giving cheerfully is good, but offering all the wealth one owns is meaningless without a heart of love, etc.

In this case, several factors and moral principles must be examined.

# 1God hates divorce - Mal 2:16, Matt 19:1-9 and asks men to remain with the with the wives of their youth - Mal 2:15. Yet, the believer is asked to accept a divorce initiated by the unbelieving spouse, because God has called us to live in peace (1 Cor 7:15)

#2 We also are asked not to be yoked with unbelievers, because what can the righteous have together with the unrighteous? 

Yet, God specifically asked Hosea to marry a prostitute. (Hosea 1:2) The resulting chaos and unfaithfulness was to act as a type for the spiritual unfaithfulness of Israel. God would not have asked Hosea to do this if it was a moral sin that could never be done (God does not tempt us to evil -James 1:13). 

Rather, the warning not to be yoked together with unbelievers cannot be a strict command, but instead an exceedingly wise recommendation. We are to be in the world but not of it. God asks us that we do not yoke together with unbelievers for our sake, and the sake of our relationship with Christ. The closer we are to another person (Wife, bosss, friend, etc) in their activities and life, then the harder it is to remain 'separate'. As far as we can, we should not deliberately yoke ourselves with close contracts to unbelievers as this is deliberately putting ourselves in a place of conflict. This does not specifically refer to marriage, but refers to any close relationship with an unbeliever including marriage.

#3 If we become a christian and our business partner, spouse, parent, boss, etc remains an unbeliever, we do not have to leave (though we should be careful that we put God first and stand firm against their sway). Each of us should remain in the circumstance we were in when we became a believer (I Cor 17:17). For some early christians, this meant remaining as slaves yoked to their masters (I Peter 2:18) - even though God condemns slavery (1 Tim 1:9-10). God's call for us to live in peace, and the witness to Christ by the servant's obedience, were higher priorities than breaking the yoke between master/slave in those incidences.

#4 Something interesting happens to the spouse of a person who becomes a believer; the unbelieving spouse is considered 'sanctified' through the believer. This does not mean that the unbeliever is granted eternal life, but rather that God considers the unbeliever 'set apart' or 'holy' because the believer has been set apart. Note that the reason for "not yoking together with unbelievers" was precisely because that which is righteous cannot be closely tied with the unrighteous. Because God in his grace now considers the unbeliever set apart for the sake of their spouse, then neither are 'of the world' anymore and are both set apart for God's use (even though the unbeliever is still a slave to sin). If both are set apart, then yoking together is not as dangerous. The children will also be set apart/holy because of this as well. I Cor 7:12-14

As such, there is no contradiction here, but it does show just how complex God's moral law is. [It also gives a glimpse of just how impossible it is for man to be 100% righteous]. Commands are more than just guidelines, but they aren't meant to contradict other commands or shut out the Holy Spirit.

July 28 2014 6 responses Vote Up Share Report

Eced7a1f c81d 42f4 95ea 9d5719dce241 Singapore Moses Messenger of God, CEO in IT industry, Astronaut, Scientist
"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Cor 6:14)

This is a military term--keep your own ranks; do not leave Christians and join with unbelievers. It indicates that some Corinthians were joining with the heathen in idolatrous feasts and other practices that would lead to apostasy (1Cor. 8:3-13; 10:16-33).

For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?

The answer to these questions is clear. Righteousness cannot mix with lawlessness; light can have no communion with darkness; Christ and Belial cannnot be of one accord; a believer cannot have part with an infidel; and there can be no agreement of the temple of God with idols.

Many a young Christian has ruined his life because of unholy alliance in marriage. Marriage is a yoke. The Bible forbids unequal yoke (2 Cor 6:14). "You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together" (Dt 22:10).Both the Old and the New Testaments strongly condemn intermarriage with unbelievers. Intermingling the "holy seed" with the unconverted is called as "trespass, transgression, iniquity and guilt" (Ezra 9:1-6). Even a widow who is a believer is not permitted to marry an unbeliever. "She is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord" (1 Cor 7:39).

Even if your parents press you to marry an unbeliever, for whatever reason, you can firmly refuse. Obedience to parents also must be "in the Lord" (Eph 6:1). If you have fallen in love with an unbeliever, break the affair unless your fiance or fiancee gets genuinely converted. Beware of baptisms just for the sake of marriage!

True in some cases the unbelieving spouse gets converted after marriage. But no truth can be established from this. The Bible challenges, "How do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?" (1 Cor 7:16). Marriage is too serious a matter to take risk. If you have already made the mistake of marrying an unbeliever, you can now do nothing but pray and believe God for his or her salvation.

When young people from non-Christian background embrace the Gospel, they find it extremely difficult to find suitable believing partners. Casteism /racism is prevalent even among Christians. Christian leaders and pastors must voluntarily take sincere efforts to settle marriages for the non-Christian converts. Believing young people from Christian families should come forward to marry non-Christian converts. Why not? Sometimes the families of these converts may throw them out of their community. The Church should support such with all sensitivity.

Jews considered any child born out of holiness if born of parents who were not proselytes at the time of his birth, even though afterwards they became proselytes. On the other hand, they considered children of heathen born in holiness, provided the parents became proselytes before the birth of their children. All heathen children were considered unclean by Jews; and all their own children holy. Heathen mothers went through certain ceremonies to idols and children were consecrated to the goddess Statina. Children of Christians came into the world without these impure and unhallowed heathen rites and were consecrated to God. This is what the apostle alludes to here.

"Thy way, not mine, O Lord, however dark it be;
Lead me by Thine own hand, choose Thou the path for me.
I dare not choose my lot; I would not if might;
Choose Thou for me, my God, so shall I walk aright!"

July 28 2014 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Hkp feature Angus MacKillop Author and Webmaster at "His Kingdom Prophecy" website.
There no contradiction in the Bible, nor in this question :)

In many parts of the world, even today, new believers are coming to Christ and many of them are married. Thus the believer in that couple "should stay with an unbelieving husband/wife if s/he will allow it..." 

If however, we are single when we come to Christ, then we are called to "not be yoked with unbelievers..."

Thus we have non-contradictory commandments for two common situations which happened when the Bible was written and still happen today.

July 29 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Stringio Nancy Sires Retired. Now my life is dedicated to doing God's will.
When we marry a nonbeliever, we not only go against God's instruction, we become like two oxen...one person has one belief, the other has another belief. A "yoke" joins the two oxen together to "pull" together. This scripture gives us a visual picture of how two people who are joined together in marriage will pull against each other in life. 

I never understood this scripture until I applied it to my own life. Think about it...as the believing spouse, it is my responsibility to reflect Christ in my own life to be living proof of God's love.

If you are already married and unequally yoked but your spouse no longer wants to be married to you because you are a Christian, The Word instructs you to leave; however, if the non-believing spouse takes no issue with you being a Christian and following Christ, you are so stay so that you might be a testament to God's love.

This is a very difficult "walk". Be in prayer always.

July 29 2014 3 responses Vote Up Share Report

Blood Phil Calvert husband and dad, follower of the bible and bible studies
Simply put, if you hang out with unbelievers. They can and will try to influence you that the Bible, God and Jesus, are not real, that they are not one and the same. (God and Jesus). Some might even try to make you believe that the Bible is a fairy tale, and that it isn't true.

God tells us for a fact that the Bible is the truth, the word became flesh, and then died for our sin on the cross. The bible is God talking to his children. 

If you are a believer we should try to get your spouse to believe and become saved, and to get other people saved.

December 06 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Add your Answer

All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.

What makes a good answer? ▼

A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.

  1. Adhere to the eBible Statement of Faith.
  2. Your answer should be complete and stand-alone.
  3. Include supporting arguments, and scripture references if possible. Seek to answer the "why".
  4. Adhere to a proper tone and spirit of love and understanding.
  5. For more info see The Complete Guide to eBible
  1. 4000 characters remaining