Questions From Readers
At 2 Corinthians 6:14, to whom is Paul referring when he uses the term “unbelievers”?
At 2 Corinthians 6:14, we read: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” If we look at the context, it is evident that Paul is speaking of individuals who are clearly no part of the Christian congregation. This understanding is supported by other Bible verses that record Paul’s use of the term “unbeliever” or “unbelievers.”
For example, Paul reprimands Christians for going to court “before unbelievers.” (1 Corinthians 6:6) Here, the unbelievers are judges serving in the court system of Corinth. In his second letter, Paul states that Satan “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” The eyes of such unbelievers are ‘veiled’ from the good news. These unbelievers have made no move toward serving Jehovah, since Paul earlier explained: “When there is a turning to Jehovah, the veil is taken away.”—2 Corinthians 3:16; 4:4.
Some unbelievers are involved in lawlessness or idolatry. (2 Corinthians 6:15, 16) However, not all are opposed to Jehovah’s servants. Some show an interest in the truth. Many have Christian mates and are happy to stay with them. (1 Corinthians 7:12-14; 10:27; 14:22-25; 1 Peter 3:1, 2) However, Paul consistently applies the term “unbeliever” to individuals who, as mentioned above, are no part of the Christian congregation, which is made up of “believers in the Lord.”—Acts 2:41; 5:14; 8:12, 13.
The principle found at 2 Corinthians 6:14 is a valuable guide for Christians in all areas of life and has often been quoted as providing wise counsel for Christians seeking a marriage mate. (Matthew 19:4-6) A dedicated, baptized Christian wisely does not seek a marriage mate among those who are unbelievers, since the values, goals, and beliefs of unbelievers are so different from those of a true Christian.
What, though, of individuals who study the Bible and associate with the Christian congregation? What of those who are unbaptized publishers? Are they unbelievers? No. Individuals who have accepted the truth of the good news and are progressing steadily toward baptism should not be called unbelievers. (Romans 10:10; 2 Corinthians 4:13) Before his baptism Cornelius was called “a devout man and one fearing God.”—Acts 10:2.
Would it be wise, then, for a dedicated Christian to pursue courtship and marriage with someone who has been accepted as an unbaptized publisher, since, strictly speaking, Paul’s counsel recorded at 2 Corinthians 6:14 could not apply in that case? No, that is not wise. Why not? Because of the direct counsel Paul gave regarding Christian widows. Paul wrote: “She is free to be married to whom she wants, only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) In harmony with that counsel, dedicated Christians are urged to seek marriage mates only among those who are “in the Lord.”
What is the meaning of the expression “in the Lord” and the related expression “in Christ”? Paul speaks of individuals who were “in Christ” or “in the Lord” at Romans 16:8-10 and Colossians 4:7. If you read those verses, you will see that such ones are ‘fellow workers,’ ‘approved ones,’ ‘beloved brothers,’ ‘faithful ministers,’ and ‘fellow slaves.’
When does one become a “slave in the Lord”? That happens when he willingly does what a slave has to do and disowns himself. Jesus explains: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) A person begins to follow Christ and fully subject himself to the will of God when he dedicates himself to God. Thereafter, he offers himself for baptism and becomes an ordained minister with an approved standing before Jehovah God.a So, then, to ‘marry in the Lord’ means to marry someone who has demonstrated that he is truly a believer, a dedicated “slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”—James 1:1.
A person who is studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and who is making fine spiritual progress is to be commended. However, he has not yet dedicated himself to Jehovah and committed himself to a life of service and sacrifice. He is still making necessary changes. He needs to complete the major changes involved in becoming a dedicated, baptized Christian before contemplating another major life change, such as marriage.
Would it be advisable for a Christian to pursue courtship with someone who seems to be making good progress in his Bible study—perhaps with the intention of waiting until he gets baptized before marrying him? No. The motives of a Bible student could well become confused if he is aware that a dedicated Christian wants to marry him but will not do so until he is baptized.
For the most part, an individual is an unbaptized publisher only for a limited period of time, until he progresses to the point of baptism. So the above counsel to marry only in the Lord is not unreasonable. What, though, if someone is of marriageable age, has been brought up in a Christian family, has been active in the congregation for a number of years, and serves as an unbaptized publisher? Well, what has held him back from giving his life to Jehovah in dedication? Why does he hesitate? Does he have doubts? While he is not an unbeliever, he cannot be spoken of as being “in the Lord.”
Paul’s counsel on marriage is for our benefit. (Isaiah 48:17) When both prospective mates have dedicated themselves to Jehovah, their commitment to each other in marriage has a solid, spiritual foundation. They share the same values and the same goals. This greatly contributes to a happy union. Moreover, by ‘marrying in the Lord,’ one shows loyalty to Jehovah, and that leads to enduring blessings, for “with someone loyal [Jehovah] will act in loyalty.”—Psalm 18:25.
a For the anointed Christians to whom Paul was writing in the first instance, being a “slave in the Lord” also involved receiving their anointing as sons of God and brothers of Christ.
[Picture on page 31]
“With someone loyal [Jehovah] will act in loyalty”