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1 Corinthians 7:15
Charles Caldwell, Stan's Dad, 1978

"But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace."

This passage has presented considerable difficulty to a great many people. Questions have been raised concerning it here in our own midst in recent weeks and we consider it of such importance to discuss it in this medium. The seeming difficulty centers around whether the departing of the unbelieving companion and the resulting lack of "bondage", is to be interpreted to mean that the believing brother or sister is free to remarry another person. It has been argued that if "a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases" then they are free, and if they are free they can remarry. On this hypothesis it is concluded that the Holy Spirit through an Apostle gave a second ground for divorce and remarriage - viz. departure of an unbelieving mate (1 Cor. 7:15), and fornication (Matt. 19:9). But, let us examine this matter closely.


The word "Bondage" is the key that unlocks the meaning and resolves the difficulty. "Bondage" in this passage is derived from "douloo" which means to "make a slave of - reduce to bondage - subject to." (Thayer, p. 158.) We find the word used in a number of passages, such as: Acts 7:6 - "And God spake on this wise, that His seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage."; Rom. 6:18 -- "ye became the servants of righteousness"; Rom. 6:22 - "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God..." 1 Cor. 9:19 - "I brought myself under bondage to all....."; Gal. 4:3 - "were held in bondage under the rudiments...."; Titus 2:3 - "....not enslaved to much wine...."; 2 Pet. 2:19 - "for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage."


In verse 39 of 1 Corinthians 7 Paul says, "A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord." The word "bound" in this passage is an altogether different word from "bondage" in verse 15. This word is derived from "deo" in the original, which means "to bind bind - to fasten with chains". (Theyer, p. 131) Notice these passages where the word is used: Matt. 12:29 - "...except he first bind the strong man..."; Matt. 13:30 - "...bind them in bundles to burn..."; Matt. 16:19 - "...whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound..." John 18:12 -- "...the Jews took Jesus and bound him...."; Rom. 7:2 - "...which hath an husband is bound by ..."; 1 Cor. 7:27 - " thou bound unto a wife?"

These passages could be multiplied but this is enough to show that there is a difference in the meaning of the word "bondage" of verse 15 and the word "bound" of verse 39. This latter term speaks of the "bond" that exists, while the former term, "bondage", speaks of "servitude". It is possible for a person to be bound by law to another but not be serving them. The example of Onesimus and Philemon would be a case in point.

From these considerations we draw two conclusions. (1) Verse 15 is not speaking of the "bond" that ties two people together in marriage, but rather of the servitude that is involved. (2) It does not indicate anything about remarriage, but rather it deals with the reaction the believer is to have when and if the unbeliever departs.

The Bible teaches that a woman who is a Christian is to be in subjection to her husband even though he is not a Christian. (cf. 1 Pet. 3:1-7). This means that she is to fulfill all the responsibilities that go along with being a wife. Viz. love her husband, render unto him due benevolence, care for him, rear his children, etc. etc. The husband's responsibilities are to love his wife, satisfy her physical desires, work that he may provide for her material needs etc. etc.

The lesson of 1 Cor. 7:15 is simply this: If the unbeliever is not content to dwell with the believer because of their faith and their determination to serve the Lord, then the believer is not under obligation to fulfill what would other-wise be their responsibilities to their spouse. They are "free" from marital obligations. It is a matter of whether they are to serve the other in such cases and not of whether they are "bound" in marriage. The believer must make all effort to live in peace with the unbeliever and make every sacrifice except obedience to God.

This passage is perverted when it is used to argue a second exception for divorce and remarriage. No man or woman with a living wife or husband who is not guilty of adultery can marry another without committing adultery.

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