In the preceding verse the apostle gave a strong and direct commandment to married believers: "Let not the wife depart from her husband and let not the husband put away his wife." There is no debate nor argument to be heard.
(Vs. 12, 13.) To the believer who is married to an unbeliever, Paul offers his counsel and advice. He is saying that he has no commandment from the Lord in regard to this matter, but if a believer is married to an unbeliever and that unbeliever consents to live in harmony and peace with the believer, do not depart.
(Vs. 14.) The unbelieving husband or wife is espoused or legally married in the eyes of God to the believer. They are rightly and legally husband and wife regardless of their differences concerning the gospel. If a person is converted to Christ and his partner is not, this does not dissolve the marriage nor make it unholy in God's sight. If their marriage were not legal and holy, children born to them would he illegitimate. But children born to this type of marriage are, in a legal and civil sense, as holy as children born to believing parents.
(Vs. 15.) If the unbeliever should leave the believer on account of the gospel (in hatred of it) and will not live with the believer unless Christ is denied or truth compromised, let him leave. The deserted person may live in peace, being not to blame; for a brother or sister is bound in conscience to obey in things pertaining to worship and the service and glory of Christ. Nor is the believer bound to remain unmarried in such cases but is free to marry another, only in the Lord. Desertion in such cases (for the sake of the gospel) is a breach of the marriage contract; otherwise, a brother or sister would be in subjection and bondage to the rebel for the rest of his or her life. God has called us to a peaceful life in the church and in the home.
(Vs. 16.) If a believer is married to an unbeliever and they can build a life of peace together, it may be that the unbeliever will, by the witness and behaviour of the believer, be brought, to a saving interest in Christ. "Continue to live together, if possible, for the glory of Christ and the eternal welfare of all concerned."
(Vs. 17.) This word is placed here with regard to all that is said before and all that follows. It has respect to every man's proper gift and station in life, whether as a single person or married, whether married to a believer or an unbeliever, and to the examples which follow. God has distributed our gifts as to nature and grace. He has given us the place we are to fill, the business we must follow and the area of usefulness in his kingdom. So when he calls us and reveals his grace to us, wherever we are and whatever we are, let us be content with his good providence and walk with him.
(Vs. 18, 19.) If a man is a Jew, being circumcised in infancy, and has embraced the Lord Jesus, there is no reason for him to be uneasy or take methods to remove this mark from his flesh because it has been fulfilled and abolished by Christ. If a man is a Gentile, has never been circumcised and is called by grace, let him not submit to circumcision for religious proposes. In the affair of justification before God, circumcision is nothing! It cannot make a man righteous or unrighteous before God. The commandments of our Lord and Saviour are to be observed from the principle of love and with a view to the glory of God.
(Vs. 20.) Coming to know Christ does not require that a man change his business, his marriage, or his station in life as a servant or master, unless that station in life is unlawful according to the Word, or dishonest, or detrimental to his Christian life and testimony (2 Kings 5:18, 19).
(Vs. 21.) "Were you a slave or a servant when you were called to Christ? Do not be troubled by it or be anxious to be otherwise. Be a good servant, serve your master faithfully, and do not look upon a lowly position or hard work as a contradiction of your call. If you are able to gain your freedom and better your position, avail yourself of the opportunity."
(Vs. 22.) The reason a believer should be content to be a slave, a servant, or whatever, is because he that is called by grace, though a servant in a civil sense, is the Lord's freeman in a spiritual sense, and he that is free in a civil sense when called is the bond-servant of Christ (Rom. 1:1).
(Vs. 23, 24.) We are bought with the price of Christ's blood and, whether servants or masters, we are the servants of Christ, not of men. So in whatever station, state or condition of life we were when called, let us continue there until it please God in his providence to change it.