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Can a Christian Marry a Non-Christian?

5. The Old Testament positively pictures believing marriages.

Positively, Proverbs 31 calls the young man to look out for a woman of noble character. The climax of the poem, and the source of everything noble about her, is reached in verse 30:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

What is it that would most attract you to a potential spouse: charm, beauty or fear of the Lord? If you marry a non-Christian, there can only be there first two: deceptive charm or fleeting beauty.

Ruth and Boaz is among the most beautiful pictures of believers marrying. He provides and protects; she trusts and takes godly initiative. It’s a wonderful love story of how a woman who has come under the wings of the Lord comes within the love of a godly man.

6. New Testament texts imply the prohibition to marry unbelievers remains.

In the New Testament, there are a number of asides that make it clear this Old Testament prohibition still stands.

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. (1 Corinthians 7:39)

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Though this second verse isn’t explicitly about marriage and offers a more general principle that the church should keep itself disentangled from fellowship with pagans, what closer fellowship would one desire than the fellowship with one’s spouse? Does one want a marriage that’s not a fellowship? In reality, it will end up being a “fellowship” or “partnership” in something but it will not be a partnership in the gospel, and therefore it will tend to entangle the believer in precisely the way 2 Corinthians 6:14 warns against.

Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? (1 Corinthians 9:5)

This suggests that having an unbelieving wife would at least disqualify from ministry. If you ever aspired to be an elder in a church, then to marry a non-Christian would disqualify you.

Those who demand New Testament evidence for the prohibition of intermarriage with unbelievers will find these texts. Simultaneously, they will not find a single verse even suggesting that the Old Testament prohibition of such intermarriage is lifted for the New Testament believer.

7. A clearer positive vision for marriage revealed in the New Testament.

The New Testament then gives a clearer revelation of marriage: It’s a partnership that pictures the redeeming love of Christ for his church. The whole point of marriage is to picture the gospel (Eph. 5:21–33; Rev. 21:9–27). Beyond that, it pictures the very relationship between the Father and the Son (1 Cor. 11:3).

To marry a non-Christian is like two artists trying to paint two different pictures on the same canvas. You’re trying to paint a picture of Jesus and the church, but your spouse is trying to paint something entirely different.

Or, to take a musical analogy, it would be a partnership where one person is trying to sing one song, and the other is trying to sing an entirely different one. You sing: “I want this song to be about Jesus,” while your spouse sings, “It’s just you and me.” There can be no ultimate harmony.

When a believer decides to marry a non-Christian—either through former disobedience, their own conversion or their spouse’s apostasy after marriage—that’s the painful, discordant, but ultimately God-glorifying song that must be sung. But it isn’t the song marriage was designed for, and not one a Christian should deliberately seek to write.

What’s the purpose of the life of a believer? Jesus tells us in John 17: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

The believer lives to know—and in knowing, to love, honor, worship and follow—God through his Son Jesus Christ.

It’s far better to live without a spouse and within the company of the church, than with someone who is living for a life that’s not eternal.

This article about whether a Christian can marry a non-Christian originally appeared here