What does 1 Corinthians 7:12 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.
NASB: But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has an unbelieving wife, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her.
CSB: But I (not the Lord) say to the rest: If any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.
NLT: Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a fellow believer has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.
Verse Commentary:
Paul is answering a question from the Corinthians about whether Christians should be married or have sex with their spouses (1 Corinthians 7:1). He has been clear: Marriage and sex within marriage are God's will for those who are already married. Christians married to each other should not get divorced, especially due to the false belief that being unmarried is more spiritual or pleasing to God than being married.

What if a Christian is married to an unbeliever? Should the Christian divorce an unsaved spouse? Paul answers that question in this and the following verses.

In the era when Paul wrote these words, Christianity was relatively new, and drastically opposed to the prevailing Greco-Roman culture. Much more so than in the modern world, it was quite common in the early church for converts to come to faith on their own, apart from their spouse. This would understandably create tension for the believer, joined in a union with Christ and with someone outside of Christ. Maybe, they thought, it would be better to dissolve that marriage and move on.

Paul says no. If a man is a Christian and married to an unbelieving woman, he should not divorce her, so long as she agrees to stay married to him. Paul will say in the following verses that if the unsaved spouse insists on divorce, however, the believer should allow it and will not be held accountable for the other person's abandonment (1 Corinthians 7:15).

He adds that this instruction comes from him and not directly from the Lord. This does not mean we should discount Paul's instruction as merely human advice. He writes these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and as the commissioned representative of Christ. For that precise reason, he acknowledges that this specific principle has not been explicitly revealed to him directly by Christ, as some of his other teachings were. As inspired Scripture, however, readers would be unwise to dismiss it.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 7:1–16 includes Paul's teaching about sex and marriage for Christians. Some in Corinth apparently thought even married believers should not have sex. Paul rejects that idea, insisting that married Christians belong to each other and should not deprive each other in this way because of the temptation to sexual sin. Also, married believers should not divorce in order to somehow be closer to God. The Lord intends marriage to be for life. Those married to unbelievers may, by staying in the marriage, help lead the other person to Christ.
Chapter Summary:
Paul rejects an idea concerning the Corinthian believers: that married Christians should not have sex. Perhaps some even thought marriages should be dissolved and avoided. On the contrary, Scripture says married Christians should have regular sex in order to avoid temptation. Those who are married ought to remain married. Unmarried believers with the gift of celibacy, however, should consider remaining single in order to avoid the troubles of marriage. That is Paul's personal preference, though that gift is not given to all others. Single believers can devote themselves to serving Christ without distraction. The time is short. All believers should live and serve Christ now as if this world is passing away.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 7 follows Paul's teaching in the previous chapter, which focused mostly on avoiding sexual immorality. Here he commands married husbands and wives not to deprive each other of sex, or get divorced, in a misguided attempt to be more spiritual. Unmarried people who can live contentedly without sex, however, should consider remaining single in order to serve Christ undivided. Getting married is good, but the time is short. The form of this world is passing away. Unmarried people should think about the opportunities to avoid trouble and serve Christ that come with staying single.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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