“For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?”
This epistle was written at a time of great affliction, distress and persecution, not only at Jerusalem, but also in the churches which were among the Gentile, every inch of the ground occupied by the church of God was contested by the Jews, and also by the Pagans, and to add to the general distress, many false notions and corruptions had obtained among the members of the churches, as will be seen by carefully reading this epistle. Among other points on which the Corinthian saints required apostolic instruction, was that in regard to their relationship with this world, as husbands, wives, parents, children, masters, servants, espoused virgins, &c. The question seems to have been agitated among them, as to whether their calling of God, their spiritual birth which developed a new and spiritual relationship to the members of the kingdom of Christ, was to dissolve those earthly relations which previously were binding on them. The apostle very clearly shows that as the kingdom of Christ is spiritual and not of this world, it intermeddles not with the civil, social or political organizations which legitimately existed before the setting up of his kingdom in her gospel organization. On this important subject the apostle says, “Let every man abide in the same calling, wherein he was called.” That is, he is to remain in the vocation which he was in when, and previously to his calling. He continues; “Art thou called, being a servant? [for there were very many of the primitive saints, who were held as the servants and chattled property of men,] care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s free man: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.” Therefore he enjoins with apostolic authority that every man shall abide in that relationship that he was in when called. A husband being called by grace, and his wife continuing in unbelief, a Jewish proselyte, or a Pagan worshiper, affords no reason why he should leave her, or if the wife be called, and her husband, still remaining in unbelief, gives her no liberty to leave him, nor does it in the least degree lessen her duties to him as a faithful and affectionate wife. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife;” that is set apart legally, by marriage. “Else were your children unclean,” or illegitimate; “but now are they holy,” or lawful.
If the husband or wife, who have become disciples of Christ, should be forsaken on that account by their unbelieving partners, it is not their fault. If the unbelieving party will depart on that account, let him or her, as the case may be, depart, but let the forsaken party not marry again, for the marriage cannot be dissolved only by death, so as to give the surviving party liberty to marry again. “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” Here the text on which our views are solicited, comes in: “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O husband, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” How save them? By a reconciliation. In verse 10, of this chapter, Paul says: “Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband. But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband.” By reconciliation with him, she retains or saves him. And however indignant, unreasonable, tyrannical, malicious or persecuting he may be in resenting her conversion to the christian faith and practice, although he may forsake her, yet she must not marry again, while he is living, for she does not know but that she may save him, by a mutual reconciliation; and the same with the husband.
The salvation here intended is not a deliverance from the curse of the law, or from the retributions of the world to come, because Christ is in that respect the only Savior, and there is salvation in no other, but the saving or retaining of the affections and companionship of a husband, or of a wife by reconciliation, is evidently what is intended in our text.
February 1, 1858.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 56 - 58