Dub McClish

Denton, TX

Many grievously misunderstand the nature of revelation/inspiration. Some aver that only the words of Jesus (those in red letter in some Bibles) are authoritative, and the remainder of the writers reflect mere human opinions. The 1970s militant feminists labeled Paul’s doctrine relating to the God-given respective roles of men and women (e.g., I Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23; 1 Tim. 2:11–12; et al.) as the rantings of a disillusioned, male-chauvinist, woman-hating bachelor—he was not Jesus.

Some brethren are not far behind the foregoing attitude toward revelation, though for different reasons. Years ago a brother made a Wednesday night talk, commenting on various expressions in 1 Corinthians 7. He alleged that Paul’s statement, “To the rest say I, not the Lord” (v. 12), was uninspired human opinion, which we could choose to ignore. It fell my lot to correct his error before the assembly was dismissed. I did so by pointing out as gently as possible that all Paul was saying was that the Lord had not specifically addressed the questions, which he was about to treat (vv. 12–15), but that Paul’s words on the subject were nonetheless inspired.

Other brethren view Paul’s words here (particularly v. 15) not as mere opinion, but as “additional revelation” to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19:9 regarding divorce and remarriage. Whereas He gave one—and only one—allowable cause for divorce and remarriage (viz., fornication on the part of one’s spouse), Paul allegedly allowed desertion by an unbelieving spouse as a second cause, thus an “exception to Jesus’ exception.” While Jesus promised the apostles the Spirit would give them additional revelation (John 16:13, et al.), He could not have had in mind contradictory revelation.

Paul wrote:

Yet if the unbelieving departeth, let him depart: the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us in peace (1 Cor. 7:15, ASV).

Such brethren argue that not under bondage refers to the “marriage bond,” which, one is no longer bound to it, one has the Scriptural right to remarry, whether or not the deserter had committed fornication. Let us respond to this assertion:

  1. By employing whosever in giving His one—and only one—exception granting divorce and remarriage to the innocent spouse (i.e., fornication [Mat. 19:9]), the Lord included all marriages, whether between two Christians, a Christian and a non-Christian, or two non-Christians.

  2. Bondage (1 Cor. 7:15) is from a cognate of duoloo, which appears 133 times in the New Testament. It is the common word for slavery, bondservitude (e.g., vv. 21–23, ASV). Inspired writers never used this word in reference to marriage, unless verse 15 is the one exception.

  3. Paul twice refers to marriage as a “bond” in the context (viz., “…bound unto a wife” [v. 27], “a wife is bound to her husband…” [v. 39]). Significantly, however, bound is from a completely different word (deo), meaning to bind, tie, or confine—literally or by obligation. This word has nothing to do with slavery and its bondage.

  4. The “bondage” the deserted spouse is not under in verse 15 is a “bondage” (slavery) the spouse was not then and had never been under (as the perfect tense of duoloo demands). Since the one deserted had been married to the deserter, but was not and never had been under the “bondage” of verse 15, said “bondage” could not refer to marriage itself.

  5. The “bondage” to which Paul refers is one that a Christian might be tempted yield to the deserter, thereby sacrificing one’s foremost bondage to Christ in order to please a human being.

This passage contains no so-called “Pauline privilege” that grants a second Scriptural ground for divorce and remarriage. Jesus teaches that when a marriage dissolves apart from the cause of fornication, neither party has the right to remarry unless and until the one abandoning the marriage commits fornication. In such a case, only the innocent spouse has that Scriptural right. There remains one—and only one—Scriptural ground of divorce and remarriage—fornication on the part of one’s spouse. Neither desertion nor any other cause of the dissolution of a God-ordained marriage (Mat. 19:6) constitutes an additional ground or exception for remarriage by the innocent party.

Paul was not merely offering an optional opinion in 1 Corinthians 7:15). All of the New Testament (as is the Old) is God’s revelation via inspired men. Thus the words of Paul, John, Peter, and the other writers are as authoritative as the words of Jesus. The Holy Spirit, Whom the Lord Jesus told the apostles He would send upon them from His Father, supplied those words (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:10, 13; 14:37; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20–21; 3:15–16).

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