…A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband [a]is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:15 and 39
We began this series of blogs by first establishing Jesus Christ’s core truth in Matthew 19:6 about the lifelong indissolubility of the covenant marriage of our youth, and rigorously applying each of the five basic principles of sound hermeneutics to that scripture passage: Content, Context, Culture, Comparison and Consultation. If you missed that installment, please start there.
Having done that, we will now do the same with each of the most egregiously mishandled passages that apostate theologians and church leaders seek to water down or refute that unpalatable truth with. You may see these same scholars dutifully applying these principles to other biblical topics, but when it comes to this one, they’ve never heard of “Herman”. We will tackle these in subjective order of damage to the church and society, doing the worst of them first, the ones that trap people in a life that the bible makes clear will send them to hell if they don’t repent and sever the illicit “marriages”.
Of all the verses profoundly abused by contemporary me-evangelicaldom, this one had SIFC itching to start the series. Part of it is purely visceral, based on a personal experience some 40 years ago, when a well-meaning church lady laid this one on her, and told her that she wasn’t accountable for the vows she had made as a very young bride, now that she had given her life to the Lord but had an unsaved prodigal husband. The Holy Spirit spoke up loudly, and to the contrary in that moment, praise God! It was many, many years before the knowledge came to surface as to why this woman was speaking for satan, but there was no doubt in that earlier moment that she was. (A few years later, the young groom involved also surrendered his life to the Lord and became a new creation in Christ, which sealed him with the Holy Spirit, according to the word of God. )…..The other part of the itch to address this in a methodic and disciplined way is the total lack of excuse for the widespread dishonesty in handling this particular passage. Unconscionable!
The benders of this verse would like to use the surface translation to justify divorce with a presumed “right” to remarry upon abandonment and “abuse” (leaving is certainly abusive, causing cruel anguish, after all, as evil things are indeed said), as well as for the purported “obeying the commandment” not to be yoked with unbelievers.
The Principle of CONTENT:
Is leaving effectively divorce in this verse? What exactly does it mean to not be under bondage? What is the consequence if God has called us to peace — what is that supposed to look like? How much scripture-bending has occurred in our contemporary English translation? Let’s just go back to the Greek text and find out!
de ho apistos chōrizetai chōrizesthō ou DEDOULōTAI (douloo) ho
δὲ ὁ ἄπιστος χωρίζεται χωριζέσθω οὐδεδούλωται
If moreover the unbeliever separates [puts distance between]
himself, let him separate himself – not is UNDER BONDAGE
adelphos ē hē adelphē en tois toioutois
ὁἀδελφὸς ἢ ἡἀδελφὴ ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις
the brother or the sister in such [cases]
en de eirēnē … keklēken hymas ho Theos
ἐν δὲεἰρήνῃ κέκληκεν ὑμᾶς ὁ Θεός
into moreover peace has called us God.
A few questions:
(1) Does “unbeliever” (apistos, ἄπιστος) in this case include once-saved backsliders, or just the unsaved?
(2) Does this “separation” (chōrizetai χωρίζεται) mean civil divorce or just abandonment? Are there more specific Greek words for divorce (apoluo ἀπολύω / aphiemi ἀφίημι) ? If there are, why weren’t they used here?
(4) What is this peace (εἰρήνη (eirēnē) we’re called to?
With the exception of “separates himself” (present indicative – continuous ongoing state), there’s a lot of perfect indicative verb tense used here – “not under bondage” , “called us into peace”, indicating a state of completion, something that has taken place in the past. It seems, then that the latter two states have more to do with being a brother or sister in Christ, than a prodigal’s ongoing action of staying away from home. Chorizetai is also much weaker word than apoluo, which is used in Matthew 19:9, “whoever divorces his wife….” The marriage revisionists appear to want to take a passage about standing for one’s marriage and turn it into a license to take the matter into one’s own hands and pursue a vengeful remedy against sundry violations of the marriage covenant. That said, we’ve started to segue into our discussion of ….
The Principle of CONTEXT:
Paul was writing in response to a letter full of questions from the Corinthian church body about the place of marriage in the church. He’s doing so after dealing with immorality, specifically the use of prostitutes in chapter 6, and the fornication between a young man and his stepmother in chapter 5 necessitating church discipline. In dramatic fashion Paul has just ended chapter 6 by reminding us that in Christ our bodies do not belong to us; we used to be fornicators, adulterers, sodomists and idolators, but now we are justified and are being purified, Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit with which we’ve been permanently sealed once we accepted the bride price of that justification. Keeping in mind that there were originally no chapter breaks in Paul’s letter (added by bible editors), he then seques into chapter 7 by also reminding us that when the Lord made us permanently one-flesh (Matt. 19:6) our bodies also came to belong to our husband or wife.
Paul proceeds to answer those marriage questions by partitioning off and addressing each status group very specifically. Therefore, as we read 1 Corinthians 7, we must pay attention in each section to who he’s talking to. We also must keep our cornerstone verse firmly in mind, (Matthew 19:6) and the one-flesh joining that can only be unjoined by death (as Paul confirms in ending this very passage, verse 39, as well as Romans 7:2-3). For example, when Paul says “to the married“, he would be referring to that one-flesh relationship, whether or not there was a purported dissolution under civil law.
In the surrounding verses, Paul had stated emphatically that separation and divorce should not occur for any reason (verse 10), but if it does for some reason, the Christ-following spouse is to stand for their marriage — that is, to remain celibate and seek reconciliation. He then went on to say that the believing spouse sanctifies the unbelieving spouse, without really saying how this happens, but leaving a presumption that it’s day-to-day interaction in the difference of attitude. But certainly, prayers of intercession play a part, as might the one-flesh relationship itself. The latter two of these might not necessarily require day-to-day proximity since the battle is in the spirit realm for the soul of that spouse. Countless restored couples can attest to the Lord working behind the scenes for years to defend the marriage covenant and pursue the prodigal spouse by the power of the Holy Spirit bringing him or her to the end of themselves and back into the kingdom of God. Note that while Jesus refers directly to “the divorced person” (using the term ἀπολελυμένην (apolelymenēn) three different times in forbidding anyone to marry them, Paul never once addresses the deserted that way in this passage.
Before moving on to another group, Paul assures the believing spouse whose unbelieving spouse has separated from them (a form of persecution for the sake of the kingdom of God), that their rebirth into the kingdom left them free to follow Christ in the absence of their spouse, and rendered them a full recipient of the peace of God. It is important to remind that verse 11 applies to these married for the duration, as long as their absent spouse remains alive. Any other rendering that permits remarriage is quite simply out-of-context, with verse 11 as well as with verse 39, causing this passage to contradict itself, which cannot be.
The Principle of CULTURE
Corinth was just the sort of hyper-sexualized culture that our Western culture has degenerated to in the past few decades. Premarital fornication, especially prostitution was rampant. Serial polygamy due to free and easy civil divorce was also epidemic. Some in the church were pushing a reactionary asceticism, even for the married. There were also those in the church who were of Jewish background who were betrothed under the traditional Hebrew kiddushin contract and were questioning whether it was less godly to carry out the contracted marriage. There were also those who became Christ-followers while already married, and they wondered if they could be a true disciple while unequally-yoked. Paul addresses each of these groups in turn in his letter, in response to the questions he had received.
A single temple in Corinth was reported to have 1,000 legal prostitutes, both male and female, while a young Corinthian man typically did not marry until age 30. Using prostitutes until that time was legal and considered a normal expectation . Quoting from Sharon L. Fitzhenry’s book, Jewish Marriage, Biblical Divorce and Remarriage, page 30,
Idol worshippers believed that they could join with the gods through sex with sacred prostitutes. Greco-Roman society encouraged young men with no other outlet to resort to prostitutes and slaves, but Paul warned, “Abstain! Avoid!” “What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot [porne] is one body? . . . Flee fornication” (1Co 6:16-18).
In chapter 5, Paul rebukes a young man for living with his father’s wife (apparently, his stepmother). It is unknown whether the father’s absence was due to death or divorce, nor whether the father’s marriage to this woman was also adulterous because it followed a previous divorce, all possibilities. What is said is that there was such “fornication as was not found even among the pagans”, and Paul demanded that they put this man out of the church (which seemed not to realize the need to administer church discipline, and had to be told to do it.)
The Principle of COMPARISON
Scripture must always be interpreted in light of all other scripture on the same topic, and accomplished in such a way that there is no contradiction. All canonized scripture is equally-inspired. The Holy Spirit cannot contradict Himself. Where there appears to be an inconsistency, disciplined investigation must continue until the source of the error is proven, and until scripture again aligns. All of the relevant Old and New Testament scripture passages must be considered, and appropriate rigor demands that none be ignored as “analogy”, or dismissed as “hyperbole”.
We established earlier Matthew 19:6 as the cornerstone scripture for comparison (Part 1 of our series) before accepting a particular interpretation of any other other scripture.
So they [that is, the man who leaves FATHER and MOTHER to be joined by GOD to the wife of his youth] are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.
In the same disciplined, hermeneutic approach as we’re pursuing here, we substantiated the following unchangeable facts from this passage:
(1) from the point God joins husband and wife, they cannot be unjoined as long as both live
(2) God actively and instantly creates the joining
(3) God commands and decrees that no act or law of men has any power or authority to unjoin holy matrimony.
Therefore, we must reject any interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:15 that conflicts with these three immutable truths. This alone should immediately rule out remarriage while having a living, estranged spouse as part of the mix. Our holy, righteous God does not participate in a “marriage” where one of the spouses is still joined and covenanted with the spouse of their youth. In other words, the “joining” (gluing) of Matthew 19:6 is not replicated for legalized adultery even if a pastor performs the ceremony, any more than He would “join” two homosexuals as one-flesh who stand up in front of a pastor.
Hence, when we say, “the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases,” and we’re talking about their original first marriage where neither partner had a prior living spouse, this departure of the unbelieving spouse cannot be interpreted as a release from the covenant marriage bond. (It might, however, be a release from an adulterous, subsequent remarriage tie, enabling reconciliation with one’s true one-flesh spouse.) In the earlier section on CONTENT, we also proved directly that the actual Greek word used means something else, and does not mean “marriage bond”.
Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39 – Two pronouncements of Paul, echoing each other, that only death dissolves the covenant of holy matrimony and frees a previously married person to marry another. On what basis was Paul saying this, if not Matthew 19:6, and the other exceptionless instances where Jesus is calling marriage to a divorced person adultery? We add that it is in these two verses that the actual Greek word (dedetai (deo) for marriage bond IS used:
A wife is bound for as long as time may live the husband of her if however shall have died the husband free she is to whom she wills to be married only in the Lord. 7:39
Gynē DEDETAI (deo) eph’ hoson chronon zē ho anēr autēs ean
de koimēthē ho anēr eleuthera estin hō thelei
gamēthēnai monon en Kyriō
Γυνὴ δέδεται ἐφ’ ὅσον χρόνον ζῇ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς ἐὰν
δὲ κοιμηθῇ ὁ ἀνήρ ἐλευθέρα ἐστὶν ᾧ θέλει
γαμηθῆναι μόνον ἐν Κυρίῳ .
(1 Cor. 7:39)
1 Cor 6:1-8; 15-20 – In addition to flatly stating that ongoing, unrepentant adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God,
1 Corinthians 6 forbids using the pagan civil court system to avoid the godly authority of church leadership, and very importantly, it contrasts the constitutional differences between the permanent, supernatural God-joining of holy matrimony with the transitory carnal joining of an unlawful, immoral relationship. It describes slavery to the wrong thing, lust and idolatry, as well as the sin of bodily dragging Jesus into the immorality. If we’re bought with a price by the Bridegroom, and our bodies are not our own to do as we please, the basis for this is also Matthew 19:6.
1 Corinthians 7:10-16 – This chapter addresses various groups in the church body, including “the married”, reiterating that separation and divorce is not an option, but if separation occurs, the spouses are to remain celibate or they are to reconcile. They are not to seek separation due to a difference in faith, “ For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband.” This is as much an allusion to the one-flesh state that exists between them as it is to godly daily influence. The instruction not to obstruct a spouse from departing who cannot abide the believing spouse’s discipleship has little to do with other causes of marital rupture, and the reference to the believing spouse not being bound refers to their freedom to follow Christ rather than a dissolution of the marriage bond. All of this is perfectly consistent with Matthew 19:6.
1 Corinthians 7: 26-27 – Another commonly-abused scripture in the same passage is used to justify remaining in a civil marriage that Jesus called adulterous. Paul instructed those in the Corinthian church, in light of the persecution they were suffering, to remain as they were “called”, meaning the state they were in when converted to Christ, also referring to slavery a few verses above. However, verse 25 specifically addresses this to the virgins, and is once again referring to the kiddushin betrothal. Therefore, his references to “wife” are mixed. In the case of an indissoluble covenant with the wife of one’s youth, one is always “called” in the married state and required to cease and repudiate any accompanying state of sin. The foundation for saying that one is called in the married state, not to a spouse of serial polygamy but to the covenant one-flesh spouse is, of course, Matthew 19:6 (also Luke 16:18 and Mark 10:11-12).
Matthew 5:32b; 19:9b; Luke 16:18 – Citing the King James version here, because virtually all modern English translations wrongfully omit the phrases, “whoever marries one who has been put away commits adultery” and “causes her to commit adultery” from Matthew 19:9, due to the deliberate choice of the bible translation team to translate a faulty and incomplete manuscript. These are three separate occasions where Jesus redefined the popular understanding of adultery from the patriarchal view (going into somebody else’s civil current wife) to marrying anyone’s divorced partner of either gender under any circumstances.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 – When it comes to disputing the indissolubility of holy matrimony, this scripture passage has been abused by no less than several Roman Catholic popes throughout history, the worst being Innocent III who instituted the vile practice of marriage “annulment” partially on that basis in the 13th century, and paired it with an abusive rendering of 1 Corinthians 7:15. It’s also been repeatedly abused by Protestant evangelical pastors with the education to know better. In addition to the direct conflict with 1 Corinthians 7:14 and 39 that results from attempting to do this, it is clear that God was honoring the covenant one-flesh marriages He had joined, respectively, of Herod and Herodias when they were rebuked by John the Baptist for their adulterous remarriage. Luke notes twice in Acts 16:1-3 that Timothy’s mother was a believer and his father was a Greek unbeliever, whom God had also joined as one-flesh. Because one-flesh is inseverable except by death, and a covenant in which God is a party cannot be dissolved, 2 Corinthians 6:14 simply cannot be retroactively applied. Even if this passage justified separation, it does not follow that marrying another while this put away spouse is alive would not be hell-bound adultery.
Luke 14:26 – Although chapter 7 begins with the counsel that to avoid sexual immorality, every believer should possess their own one-flesh covenant spouse [literally, the one “that is theirs / of them“], it does not follow that anyone is entitled to a sexual relationship. Whether in an intact marriage or not, Christ-followers must each take up their cross and follow Him, loving Him most and their spouse second after that. Central to loving Him is obeying His commandments. Anything or anyone else put ahead of that is idolatry, which will also cause a believer not to inherit the kingdom of God, if unrepented.
Galatians 4:30-5:1 – We have freedom in Christ; we are free to act and obey only Him, from our heart. If our spouse refuses to be subject to Christ, they are out of order, but our one-flesh state is not severed by that. Christ will be our spouse (Isaiah 54) during this time. Our only duty is to stay celibate and to intercede faithfully for them, leaving the door open always for reconciliation and realizing that their eternity and redemption depend on it.
As always, we’ve endeavored to bring all of the directly relevant scriptures into the COMPARISON exercise for the one being examined. If we happened to miss one, please use the blog Comments to bring it to our attention.
The Principle of CONSULTATION
Whom is it most appropriate to consult on the authority of scripture which seeks to “sanctify” marriage to another while still having a living one-flesh spouse? Due to the carnality of man which tends to escalate over time, that is a very important question which requires a strong knowledge of church history to reliably answer. Hopefully, we’ve made it clear with indisputable evidence up to this point exactly where Jesus and the Apostles (including Paul) stood. They discipled the next generation of followers of The Way, who in turn discipled the successive generations of the ante-Nicene church fathers. It makes sense therefore to start the consultation with the writings of those who knew the Apostles (for example, Luke and Mark), and with those whom the next generation discipled.
We need to be a bit skeptical while consulting theologian commentators from the time of the Reformation forward when it comes to this topic. Some will be biased in defense of the heretical Westminster Confession of Faith, which dominated mainline Protestant Churches from the 17th century, and others will be swayed by the tampering with word translations that began to occur in the lexicons published after the latter half of the 19th century. On this basis, an equal number of later scholars will refute and discredit the many writings of the disciples of the Apostles, literally lapsing into “Reverend All-Wet” mode, and only superficially applying the principles of disciplined hermeneutics that we’ve just stepped through together. Two free downloadable scholarly books are available, here and here, that will be very helpful in carrying out the CONSULTATION step for almost every scripture we’ll be examining in this series. Our Church Fathers and Church Wolves series will also be historically helpful. What follows below is intended to be a sampling and not exhaustive.
Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D)
And, “Whoever shall marry her who is divorced from another husband, commits adultery.” And, “There are some who have been made eunuchs of men, and some who were born eunuchs, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake; but all cannot receive this saying.” So that all who by human law, are twice married, are in the eye of our Master sinners, and those who look upon a woman to lust after her.
Athenagoras (177 A.D.)
For we bestow our attention; not on the study of words, but on the exhibition and teaching of actions, that a person should either remain as he was born, or be content with one marriage; for a second marriage is only a specious adultery. “For whoever puts away his wife,” says He, “and marries another commits adultery;” not permitting a man to send her away whose virginity he has brought to an end, nor to marry again.
Clement of Alexandria (circa 215 A.D.)
Now that the scripture counsels marriage, and allows no release from the union, is expressly contained in the law, “You shall not put away your wife except for the cause of fornication,” and it regards as adultery the marriage of those separated while the other is alive. The Church cannot marry another, having obtained a bridegroom; each of us individually has a right to marry the woman he wishes according to the law; I mean here first marriage.
Gregory Nanzianzen (circa 325-389 A.D.)
For I think the word here seems to deprecate second marriage. For, if there were two Christs, there may be two husbands or two wives; but if Christ is One, one Head of the Church, let there also be one flesh, let the second be rejected…now the [civil] Law grants divorce for every cause, but Christ not for every cause; but He allows only separation from the whore; and in all other things He commands patience.
Ambrose of Milan (333-397 A.D.)
Therefore, the right to marry is given you, lest ye fall into a snare and sin with a strange woman. Ye are bound to your wife; do not seek release because you are not permitted to marry another while your wife lives.
John Chrysostom (circa 347-407 A.D.)
‘Let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.’….’What then if he will never be reconciled?’ one may ask. You have one more mode of release and deliverance. What is that? Await his death. For as the (consecrated) virgin may not marry because her Spouse always lives, and is immortal; so to her who has been married it is then only lawful [to remarry] when her husband is dead.
Innocent I (417 A.D.)
It is manifest that when persons who have been divorced marry again both parties are adulterers. And moreover, although the former marriage is supposed to be broken, yet if they marry again they themselves are adulterers, but the parties whom they marry are equally with them guilty of adultery; as we read in the gospel:
He who puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery; and likewise, He who marries her that is put away from her husband commits adultery.
Jerome (circa 340-420 A.D.)
The apostle has cut away every plea and has clearly declared that, if a woman marries again while her husband is living, she is an adulteress. You must not speak to me of the violence of a ravisher, a mother’s pleading, a father’s bidding, the influence of relatives, the insolence and the intrigues of servants, household losses. A husband may be an adulterer, a sodomite, he may be stained with every crime and may have been left by his wife for his sins; yet he is still her husband as long as he lives; she may not marry another.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.)
It cannot be correctly affirmed either that the husband who puts away his wife because of immorality and marries another does not commit adultery. For there is adultery, also, on the part of those who marry others after the repudiation of their former wives because of immorality…If everyone who marries another woman after the dismissal of his wife commits adultery, this includes one who puts away his wife without cause of immorality and the one who puts away his wife for this reason.
“Ambrosiaster” (370 A.D. – rogue scholar emulated by Erasmus)
The reason why Paul does not add, as he does in the case of the woman, but if he departs he should remain as he is because a man is allowed to remarry if he has divorced a sinful wife. The husband is not restricted by law as a woman is, for the head of the woman is the husband.
Peter Lombard (prior to 1160 A.D.)
The marriage bond still exists between those who, even if departing from one another, having joined themselves to others.
Pope Innocent III (circa 1200 A.D. who instituted “annulment”)
Be not willing to cohabit without blasphemy of the Divine name, or without drawing him onto mortal sin, he who is thus deserted may pass over to a second marriage if he will…
Thomas Aquinas (circa 1225-1274 A.D.)
Nothing happening after a marriage can dissolve it: wherefore adultery does not make a marriage cease to be valid. For according to Augustine, “as long as they live they are bound by the marriage tie, which neither divorce nor union with another can destroy.
The Westminster Confession of Faith – 1649 (observed by most mainline Protestant denominations and adopted by popular vote of clergy and Members of (British) Parliament)
V. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments, unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage; yet nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage; wherein a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it, not left to their own wills and discretion in their own case.
Isaac Williams (1802-1865)
‘What therefore God has joined let not man put asunder.’ Here our Lord sets aside the letter of Holy Scripture, in one case, in the passage in Deuteronomy, (which He speaks of as the command of Moses,) on account of the higher law of Christian holiness and perfection…and therefore this passage in the book of Genesis not only is spoken, as St Paul says it is, of the Sacramental union betwixt Christ and His Church, but also does signify that marriage is itself of Divine sanction, and the union formed by God, and necessarily indissoluble as such…for if God has joined, man cannot put asunder.
The Assemblies of God (1973) -DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE Application of General Scriptural Principles (also adopted by popular vote of clergy following the enactment of unilateral divorce in several U.S. states, and removing 60 years’ by-laws that required pastors to be disfellowshipped for performing weddings where either the bride or groom had an estranged living spouse.)
Point 5 – Paul forbade Christians to take the initiative in divorce simply because their partner was an unbeliever….pages 4-5)… “While making every effort to preserve the marriage, when the unbelieving spouse was definitely unwilling to continue, the believer should not, at all costs, attempt to restrain him/her. In these cases, abandonment, by implication, may be interpreted as grounds for divorce and remarriage.”
Point 7 – The Right to Remarry… “Paul has already addressed the problem of abandonment in verse 15 and shown that “A believing man or woman is not bound [that is, free to remarry] in such circumstances.”
Dr. James Dobson (circa 1990)
There are three occasions when divorce and remarriage appear to be justified in scripture….3. When one mate is an unbeliever and willfully and permanently deserts the believing partner
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
But if the unbelieving depart.—Supposing, however, the desire for separation arises from the unbelieving partner, how is the Christian partner to act? If the married life, for example, be made intolerable by the unbeliever urging the believer to join in such religious acts as conscience cannot approve, the Apostle’s previous commands for continued union do not hold good: a brother or a sister, in such cases, is not bound to insist upon the continuation of the union. “Let the unbeliever, if he so desire, depart.”
This permission is in no way contrary to our Lord’s permission of divorce on only one ground, for the Apostle has carefully reminded his readers that our Lord’s command does not apply to the case of a marriage between a believer and a heathen. In ouch cases we have no command from Him.
A brother or a sister.—That is, a Christian. In such cases, when the unbelieving partner wishes to depart, let him or her do so. The Christian partner is not, under such circumstances, bound by the marriage to continue together. Their doing so might destroy that very peace in which (not “to peace” as in the English) God has called us.
1 Corinthians 7:15-17. But if the unbelieving party depart, let him, or her depart — And take the course they think best. A brother or sister — A Christian man or woman; is not under bondage — Is at full liberty; in such cases: but — Let it be always remembered; God hath called us to peace — To live peaceably with them, if it be possible: and therefore it ought to be our care to behave in as inoffensive a manner as may be, in all the relations of life; that so, if there must be a breach, the blame may not be chargeable upon the Christian. For what knowest thou, &c. — As if he had said, It is of great importance that you should conduct yourselves properly toward those who thus make, as it were, a part of yourselves, and that you should adorn the gospel by the most amiable and engaging behaviour possible, that thereby the unbeliever may be gained over to Christianity. And surely the everlasting happiness of the person, now the companion of your life, will be more than an equivalent for all the self-denial to which you may be required at present to submit. See on 1 Peter 3:1-2. But — However it be, whether the unbeliever be converted or not; as God hath distributed to every man — The various stations of life, and various relations, let him take care to discharge his duty therein; for the gospel disannuls none of them: And as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk — “By declaring here, and 1 Corinthians 7:20; 1 Corinthians 7:24, that men were bound, after their conversion, to continue under all the moral and just political obligations, which lay on them before their conversion, the apostle condemned the error of Judaizers, who taught, that, by embracing the true religion, all the former obligations, under which the convert lay, were dissolved. The gospel, instead of weakening any moral or just political obligation, strengthens them all.” This I ordain in all churches — This I lay down as a general rule for all Christians to observe, and insist on it, as a matter of the greatest importance.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
7:10-16 Man and wife must not separate for any other cause than what Christ allows. Divorce, at that time, was very common among both Jews and Gentiles, on very slight pretexts. Marriage is a Divine institution; and is an engagement for life, by God’s appointment. We are bound, as much as in us lies, to live peaceably with all men, Ro 12:18, therefore to promote the peace and comfort of our nearest relatives, though unbelievers. It should be the labour and study of those who are married, to make each other as easy and happy as possible. Should a Christian desert a husband or wife, when there is opportunity to give the greatest proof of love? Stay, and labour heartily for the conversion of thy relative. In every state and relation the Lord has called us to peace; and every thing should be done to promote harmony, as far as truth and holiness will permit.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
But if the unbelieving depart – If they choose to leave you.
Let him depart – You cannot prevent it, and you are to submit to it patiently, and bear it as a Christian.
A brother or a sister is not under bondage … – Many have supposed that this means that they would be at liberty to marry again when the unbelieving wife or husband had gone away; as Calvin, Grotius, Rosenmuller, etc. But this is contrary to the strain of the argument of the apostle. The sense of the expression “is not bound,” etc. is, that if they forcibly depart, the one that is left is not bound by the marriage tie to make provision for the one that departed; to do acts that might be prejudicial to religion by a violent effort to compel the departing husband or wife to live with the one that is forsaken; but is at liberty to live separate, and should regard it as proper so to do.
God hath called us to peace – Religion is peaceful. It would prevent contentions and broils. This is to be a grand principle. If it cannot be obtained by living together, there should be a peaceful separation; and “where” such a separation has taken place, the one which has departed should be suffered to remain separate in peace. God has called us to live in peace with all if we can. This is the general principle of religion on which we are always to act. In our relation to our partners in life, as well as in all other relations and circumstances, this is to guide us. Calvin supposes that this declaration pertains to the former part of this verse; and that Paul means to say, that if the unbelieving depart, he is to be suffered to do so peaceably rather than to have contention and strife, for God has called us to a life of peace.
So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman. It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
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