Friday, October 24, 2008

MARRIAGE IS NOT BONDAGE, 1 CORINTHIANS 7:15,16

5 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Cor. 7:15,16)
The words "not under bondage" mean that God is not calling for the Christian to force the partner to continue the relationship. In fact, the word "bondage" is never used to refer to the marriage "bond" (a different Greek word) and the grammar means "not now and never were" in bondage or slavery. So Paul is dealing with a Christians misconception that should the unbeliever leave, the Believer is in spiritual jeopardy. Paul is saying to let the unbeliever go who is bent on leaving. God wants peace which is what verse 16 says.

The statement that the unbeliever is somehow "sanctified" through the Believer is perplexing. The options for understanding this are:
  • Option 1: The husband is saved because he is married to a Christian, or

  • Option 2: The unbelieving spouse has the best chance of becoming a Christian by being married to the Christian.
In verse 16, Paul clarifies by saying, "for how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?" It's apparent then that in this context, "sanctified" does not mean the unbeliever is "saved", but only that it is more likely. So the believer should not leave. Remember that there are no contradictions in Scripture which teaches that each person is sanctified/saved by his own response to the Gospel. An unbelieving husband isn't saved (i.e. washed in the blood and going to heaven saved) because he is married to a Christian. Verse 16 shows salvation is potential, but not yet realized yet. So the second option is correct.

Also, because he says the unbeliever is sanctified through the Believer it isn't saying that without the Christian spouse the marriage wouldn't be sanctified. Marriage between non-believers are legitimate or sanctified too. Paul is encouraging the Christians to remain married and is letting them know that God accepts the marriage. Some might have been thinking that it was wrong to stay married to the non-believer, but Paul no. If the marriage wasn't acceptable to God, then the children would be illegitimate. But as it is they are holy, or legitimate.

Does this mean the Believer can remarry? This verse says nothing about giving the abandoned spouse the choice to remarry. The answer to that question must be consistent with everything else God has said in 1 Cor. 7:10,11 of the same chapter and in Matthew 5 and 19. The law concerning marriage applies to christian and non-christian. Jesus in Matthew 5 and 19 and Paul in 1 Cor. 7:10,11 shows that the options are limited to remaining unmarried or being reconciled. That's it. For believers and non-believers, the laws on marriage, divorce, and remarriage apply here as well. So because the believer is not "enslaved" or in "bondage" to the unbeliever does not change the options.
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