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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 7:16 How do you know??

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, February 6, 2023

16 Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

After an unbelieving spouse leaves (vs. 15), the believer might wonder: How will I be able to guide them to Christ?

First, no one should think that they can force another person to become a Christian, a true believer in Christ with forgiven sins and the certainty of eternal life. The gospel does not work through demands or negotiations, which belong to the law (Galatians 2:16). The gospel is a message of forgiveness, not fear or force. We are saved by faith, not through the law. We are saved “by the righteousness that comes from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

In the same way, no one should think that by making someone act Christian, that this would please God, or that it would cause the person to be transformed into a Christian. While a psychologist might assert that such tactics have value, they have no value before God. A hypocrite will remain a hypocrite no matter how shiny their shoes or how new their tie. And a woman who has divorced her husband just because she wants a new life will not be saved by sitting in church and marinating in her unrepentant unbelief.

But there is a third possibility: The believer may have had a long-term plan and hope that the constant example of faith, the careful quotation of Scripture, especially the gospel, and the encouragement of love and affection would soften and turn the heart of the unbeliever to faith. But if the unbeliever has departed, divorced, and perhaps even moved to another city or remarried, then the plan is ruined.

Paul comforts this spouse: How do you know that your plan would have saved him, or saved her? Salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. Let the unbeliever go and live in peace.

The Holy Spirit may have another plan in mind, one in which your role in the unbeliever’s life is at an end. But they will carry with them the memory of you, and so do not lose all hope. But it’s time to let them go. If you wish to pray for them, God never forbids such prayers. But he also wants you to live in peace (verse 15), and it might be better for you to live in peace if you let go and move ahead with your own life, perhaps even with a new spouse. Remember the elders of Bethlehem who blessed Boaz when he married the widow Ruth: “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem” (Ruth 4:11). And again: “May the God of hope fill you with peace” (Romans 15:13).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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