Dealing with Continuous Sin and Wilfully Unrepentant Spouses

Renette Vermeulen



When Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 7, “The unbelieving husband is sanctified [or made holy] by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else your children would be unclean, but now they are holy,” he was not referring to either the doctrine of ‘sanctification,’ or baby sprinkling as a baptism.  Sadly, baby ‘baptizing’ denominations grabbed this declaration as Scriptural ‘proof’ that the babies of Christians should be baptized. Paul was not speaking about water baptism; he took the time to explain the difficulties that arise from marriages between born again believers and unbelievers. (This passage does not mean that believers may marry unbelievers. It pertains to a situation where only one spouse comes to salvation in Christ after marriage, while the other remains an unbeliever, 1 Cor. 7:14.) Here, Paul said expressly that divorce is not the norm for such marriages.  He explained that God creates a holy environment for the sincerely believing spouse in an ‘unequally yoked,’ previously unholy marriage! The believer must not divorce the unbelieving spouse if the unbeliever is willing to live with the believer, not the other way around. Should the believer agree to submit to the sin of the unbeliever, the home would be in chaos and the believer’s salvation would be in danger

God’s supernatural holiness for unbelieving spouses and the little, young, or teenage children of sincere believers has nothing to do with sacramental (or atoning) ‘church rites’ – just as this ‘sanctification’ has nothing to do with the personal salvation of the unbelieving husband or wife, or their children. The holy position of truly born again spouses, which so favourably affects their unsaved spouses and children, only covers their children under God’s holiness until the children are able to leave home and make a life for themselves. Salvation is always a personal matter between the person and God, (Jn. 1:12-13.) Nevertheless, unbelieving children must also submit to the truth and holiness of Christ, which must govern the believing spouse and parent. Nevertheless, if unbelieving but holy children of this ‘mixed’ marriage could be ‘baptized,’ then the holy but unbelieving spouse can also be ‘baptized!’ However, no one can ‘stand in the gap’ for another person, not even their own children, (Deut 24:16; Ezk. 18:4, 18-20.) “The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father; neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” That is why one may only baptize self-confessed believers in Christ. This passage does not mean that the ‘holy’ spouse or children of believers should be ‘sprinkle-baptized’ - or even baptized by immersion if they do not personally accept and follow Jesus!


[Facebook post following the above] Some people misunderstood me concerning 'not tolerating' the sin of an unbelieving spouse, while Scripture commands that a believer “must not divorce an unbelieving spouse as long as the unbeliever is willing to live with the believer,” and not the other way round. (1 Cor. 7.) This is not about separating from unbelievers about any silly thing, nagging, and “bringing division in families” by being intolerant of their sin. I have seen many believers go back to the world on the insistence of unbelieving spouses; “not to be so religious; spoiling the fun in the home, thinking ‘you are holier than thow…’” Under such pressure, believers, who did not “count the cost” to follow Jesus, fall prey to the devil that work through their misplaced loyalties and love for their spouses, children, and other family members. God commanded believes to, “if possible, as far as depends on you, live in peace with all people,” (Rom. 12:18.)

To bring the true Gospel and Holy Spirit is God's peace and Highest love. If people unrepentantly reject Jesus, we must ‘shake the dust from our feet’ and leave them to their choice, (Mt. 10:14; 18:15-20.) We must not speak to the unbelieving world about sin without declaring the Gospel of Peace to them first. But clinging to deliberately unrepentant believers and unbelievers severely affect our lives in Christ. Thus, 1 Cor. 7 actually forbids the believer “to live” with the unbeliever, (meaning, allowing unrepentant sin and consequently following the lifestyle of the unbeliever,) because Jesus commanded in Mt. 10:37, “If you love father, mother, spouse, brother, sister, children… more than Me, you are not worthy to be My disciple…” We must not confuse humanism and passiveness in the face of sin and abuse with Godly love.

The first and most important commandment of God’s Moral Law of LOVE is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul [or mind] and strength, and your neighbor AS yourself,” (Mt. 22:37.) To love God i is to OBEY God’s Moral-Law commandments (which is not humanist love) and to hate all sin (our own sin included) but to love the sinner (and ourselves) enough to always tell him/her the truth about all things, confront all serious sin as Jesus commanded, (Mt. 18:15-20,) pray the conviction and help of the Holy Spirit under all circumstances, and to withstand the wiles [schemes] of the devil by standing in the whole ‘armor’ of God, which is not a quick-dress ritual, but STANDING against all evil in complete Holy-Spirit integrity and the entire truth of God. “Friendship with the world is enmity with God [and with yourself,]” (Jam. 4:4.) 


DISOBEYING THE MORAL LAW COMMANDMENTS OF GOD IN DEALING WITH SIN AND UNREPENTANT SINNERS, ENDANGERS OUR OWN SPIRITUAL SAFETY. God will hold us accountable for not warning, teaching, etc., if through our disobedience to Him (and thus, our support of sin,) that person ends up in hell. Ezk. 33, “[If you warn the sinner and he/ she does not listen,]” his/her blood will be on him/her. [If you did not warn the sinner] his/her blood I will require from your hand…” Paul, Acts 20:26, “I am innocent of the blood of all… I did not neglect to teach the whole counsel of God…” Thus, tolerating sin in your home is NOT Godly love. “Bad company [always] corrupts good morals or character,, (1 Cor. 15:33.) To live in an unholy atmosphere will bring you down, if you cannot eventually flee.

This does not mean to choose divorce except in the case of adultery, (Mt. 19:8-12.) It means we may separate (not divorcee) from the spouse to bring conviction of sin. In all my years working with people I have not seen a single hardcore drug addict, adulterer, etc. repent from sin except when they truly accepted Jesus. It is just a case of “if I can have my spouse… AND the bottle, why should I repent?”

So, hardened sinners must be dealt with in ‘tough love.’ This also places the believer between a rock and a hard place. Not tolerating unrepentance can lead to divorce because the believer might choose this way out. It is then good to let that person go for the sake of all concerned, (1 Cor. 7:15.) However, when the believer cannot separate or flee, the situation can become unbearable. The believer cannot accept or tolerate sin, but has no choice.

This must be a constant multilevel fight for personal sanity and spiritual safety, not to become passive and submit to the unbeliever. Of course Godly love [Moral Law obedience] can change a lot of people, and we should be patient with unbelievers to a certain degree, so that the Holy Spirit can “convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment, (Jn. 16:8.) But this poor believer then has no other choice but to resist [constantly fight] all this evil, while “taking up this cross” [the realization that none of us can save or change a soul that does not want to be saved or changed,] and so, between a rock and a hard place, just keep on following Jesus no matter what…



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