How can you help an unbelieving spouse find the Lord?
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I Corinthians 7:10-16
“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, (so this is The Word of God) Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband; and let not the husband put away his wife. 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, (still in paganism) and if he be pleased to dwell with her, (who is now a believer) let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, (who is a believer) and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: (who is a believer) else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. (Paul says `let the unbelieving spouse go if that’s the way they want it.’) A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, (Who is a believer) whether thou shalt save thy husband? (who is lost) or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shall save thy wife?”
Now we know that we can’t save our spouse and the spouse can’t save us, so what’s Paul talking about? Well let me bring you back again to Peter’s little epistle in I Peter Chapter 3. Here, especially in the city of Corinth, and this is the only letter where Paul deals with these things, and so consequently I have to feel that the Ephesians weren’t under this kind of situation, nor the Philippians, or the Colossians. Maybe to a degree they were, but not like they were here in Corinth. It was just beyond comprehension, and everyone of these converts of Paul had been in idolatry. So if they were married then naturally they both were, so if one of them is saved and comes out of idolatry, and becomes a believing Christian then here we have in the home this division, as one is still in idolatry, and the other a believer. How were they going to handle it? The same would be for missionaries who minister to people who have more than one wife in the family. We’re so immune to all these things, we’ve been so protected in our American society, but these things were real to these people. Now look what Peter says here.
I Peter 3:1
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; (sounds like Paul doesn’t it?) that, if any obey not the word, (they’re not a believer) they (the husbands) also may without the word (without preaching at them, without dragging them to church, without bringing them under the television ministry, without saying a word, that lost husband may) be won by the conversation (or manner of living) of the wives,” Now verse 2:
I Peter 3:2-4
“While they behold your chaste conversation (manner of living) coupled with fear. (a reverence fear, rather than being scared to death) Whose adorning (speaking of the Godly, believing wife) let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; (but rather let her win the husband by) but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, (that born again spirit within that believing woman) even the ornament of a meek and quite spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
Now what is Peter admonishing the believing wife to do? Listen, don’t nag that unbelieving husband, don’t preach at him, don’t try to drag him to church because that’s not going to work. So what does the wife do first and foremost? She lives an exemplary Christian life in front of him.
I remember when I was teaching up in Iowa, and I had a Saturday night teenager class, and we would have 45 or 50 kids that would come in every Saturday night for Bible teaching. One of the neighbors of the host home wanted to know, “what in the world is going on in your house on Saturday night?” So Gladys the host, said, “well we have a Bible study for young people.” The neighbor lady wanted to know if there was a chance that she could come and sit off in the corner someplace, and listen and watch, and naturally there wasn’t a problem with that. So this lady, who was a doctor’s wife, had a lovely home, but her husband was something else. And they don’t mind me telling this story on them, as they share it with everyone now. But anyway, she came to that class on Saturday nights over a few weeks time, and Mary Beth was gloriously saved.
Well it wasn’t but a few weeks after that, and Iris and I were attending a wedding where she was also, and she met us out in the lobby of the church, and she started to weep – I mean weep. I said what in the world is the problem. And she said, “My husband John.” I said, “Yeah, I’ve heard about John.” You see John had more than one mistress, and his wife knew it, and as a result of her Salvation he became her number one burden. And so I took out my Bible and showed her these verses here in I Peter, and I told her that this wasn’t going to be easy, but my Bible tells me that if you can do it, then God will do it. Well she said, “I’m willing to try.” So I told her just to do what she knew John likes. If he loves a good T-bone steak have one ready when he comes in. If he likes hot apple pie, have one ready for him. Well to make a long story short, do you know how long it took to win John? 4 months. And old John told the story himself.
John said, ” I was in my office one Sunday morning, and had just seen my last patient, and I was in a hurry to get out to the country club. I was just gong to spend the day boozing it up with my buddies. Before I could get out of my clinic, The Lord just came on me with such conviction that my wife was such a far better person than I could ever hope to be, that right there in my office I dropped to my knees and said `Lord, I’m a sinner, save me, and The Lord did.'” And this man has now been a Church leader almost ever since. He is a living example of what a believing wife can do without saying a word.
Most women get the idea that they’re going to drag their husband to church, and get everybody trying to collar him, and that’s not the way to do it according to my Bible. I’ve also seen it the other way around. In one instance the husband came to the class first and was saved, and got a burden for his wife to be saved, but she wanted nothing to do with The Word of God when he tried to read it to her. But he just kept living the example, and finally one day The Lord in His Sovereign Grace caused a friend of hers, who was a believer, to just stop in for coffee one morning, and in the process of having a cup of coffee, led this lady to The Lord. And they are still living the exemplary Christian life together today. So I know this works. So back to I Corinthians, and this is all Paul is saying, that if a wife or husband finds themselves still in a marriage relationship with a rank pagan unbeliever, to just hang in there. Don’t break up the marriage if at all possible, but live the example so that the day will come when they will open their heart to The Gospel (Ref. I Corinthians 15:1-4) and then you can have a happy marriage relationship, a happy home, and of course the children will more than likely follow suit.