Does the Bible say you can marry a non-Christian? The simple answer is “No.” 1 Corinthians 7:39 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 are very clear about this.
If you want more information on “Are Christians Allowed to Marry a Unbeliever?” you may want to read these articles that I have written previously:
Is It Okay to Date (or Marry) a Non-Christian?
Is It Wrong for Christians to Missionary Date Non-Believers?
In those articles I unpack why Christians should not marry or date an unbeliever. However, there is one consistent passage that people refer to that disagree with me. Some people believer 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 is a passage of Scripture that proves Christians can date and marry an unbeliever:
To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”
1 Corinthians 7:12-16 Forbids Divorcing an Unbelieving Spouse. It Does Not Condone Marrying an Unbeliever
The context of this passage is all about divorce. 1 Corinthians 7:11 states, “. . . The husband should not divorce his wife.” Paul then doubles down on this command by saying that even if you are married to an unbeliever, you should still not divorce him or her.
Notice Paul is clearly referring to a couple who is already married. Sometimes two unbelievers get married and then one of them becomes a Christian. This was especially relevant in Paul’s day because Christianity was new, so there was obviously going to be a lot of new conversions that created mismatches in marriage.
Paul says in instances where the non-Christian wants to remain with the Christian, the Christian should not divorce him or her. However, if the non-Christian wants to leave, the Christian spouse is free to let him or her go.
Nowhere in this passage is there any instructions about a Christian marrying a non-Christian as a way to save him or her. The point is that a Christian spouse has made a commitment to their spouse in marriage. They should seek to witness to their unbelieving spouse and not divorce him or her. This is a passage about not divorcing. It is not a passage encouraging marrying a non-believer.
If 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 Encouraged Unequally Yoked Marriages, This Would Contradict 1 Corinthians 7:39
If the Bible contradicts itself the Bible is not true. You can’t pick and choose what parts of the Bible you believe. One helpful tip to help you understand a certain part of Scripture that you are confused about is to refer to a part of Scripture that you are very clear about.
Since the Bible never contradicts, you should use Scripture to help you interpret Scripture. 1 Corinthians 7:39, for example, is very clear:
“A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” (NIV)
Here Paul says that although you can’t divorce, you can remarry if your spouse dies. The only restriction is that “he must belong to the Lord.” This cannot be any clearer. Christians are commanded to marry other Christians.
1 Corinthians 7:12-16 cannot mean that you are free to marry someone who does not belong to the Lord since that would directly contradict 1 Corinthians 7:39.