1 Corinthians 7:15
But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.
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(15) 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.

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.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.

15. if … depart—that is, wishes for separation. Translate, "separateth himself": offended with her Christianity, and refusing to live with her unless she renounce it.

brother or a sister is not under bondage—is not bound to renounce the faith for the sake of retaining her unbelieving husband [Hammond]. So De 13:6; Mt 10:35-37; Lu 14:26. The believer does not lie under the same obligation in the case of a union with an unbeliever, as in the case of one with a believer. In the former case he is not bound not to separate, if the unbeliever separate or "depart," in the latter nothing but "fornication" justifies separation [Photius in Æcumenius].

but God hath called us to peace—Our Christian calling is one that tends to "peace" (Ro 12:18), not quarrelling; therefore the believer should not ordinarily depart from the unbelieving consort (1Co 7:12-14), on the one hand; and on the other, in the exceptional case of the unbeliever desiring to depart, the believer is not bound to force the other party to stay in a state of continual discord (Mt 5:32). Better still it would be not to enter into such unequal alliances at all (1Co 7:40; 2Co 6:14).

If the unbelieving husband or the unbelieving wife will leave his or her correlate, that is, so leave them as to return no more to live as a husband or as a wife with her or him that is Christian,

let him depart. Such a person hath broken the bond of marriage, and in such cases Christians are

not under bondage, they are not tied by law to fetch them again, nor by the laws of God to keep themselves unmarried for their perverseness. But it may be objected, that nothing but adultery, by the Divine law, breaketh that bond.

Answer. That is denied. Nothing but adultery is a justifiable cause of divorce: no man may put away his wife, nor any wife put away her husband, but for adultery. But the husband’s voluntary leaving his wife, or the wife’s voluntary leaving her husband, with a resolution to return no more to them, breaks also the bond of marriage, frustrating it as to the ends for which God hath appointed it; and, after all due means used to bring again the party departing to their duty, doth certainly free the correlate. So that although nothing can justify repudiation, or putting away a wife or a husband, and marrying another, but the adultery of the person so divorced and repudiated; yet the departure either of husband or wife without the other’s consent for a long time, and refusal to return after all due means used, especially if the party so going away doth it out of a hatred and abomination of the other’s religion, will justify the persons so deserted, after due waiting and use of means to reduce him or her to their duty, wholly to cast off the person deserting; for no Christian in such a case, by God’s law, is under bondage.

But God hath called us to peace; for God hath called Christians unto peace, and in his ordinance of marriage aimed at the quiet and peace of his people in their service of him in their families and relations; and therefore as Christians ought not to disturb the peace of their own consciences, turning away their relations, though they be unbelievers; yet neither are they bound, if such will leave them, to court their own continual trouble and disturbance.

But if the unbelieving depart,.... If the unbelieving party, man or woman, separate themselves from the believing party on account of religion, and in hatred to it, and will not live with the believer unless Christ is denied, his Gospel abjured, and his ordinances and worship relinquished:

let him depart; he or she, though not without making use of all proper means to retain them; but if, after all, they will go, unless such things are complied with as are unreasonable and sinful, they are not to be held, but let go; and the deserted person may sit down contented, being not to be blamed, the fault entirely lying upon the deserter:

a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. The Ethiopic version reads it, "to such an one"; one that is called by grace a church member, and so a brother or sister in Christ, is not to be subject to an unbeliever in matters of conscience, in things appertaining to the worship of God, and the service and glory of Christ; nor, being in such circumstances, that either Christ must be forsaken, or the unbeliever will depart, are they obliged to yield to such an one, but rather suffer a departure; nor are they bound to remain unmarried, but are free to marry another person, after all proper methods have been tried for a reconciliation, and that appears to be impracticable; desertion in such a case, and attended with such circumstances, is a breach of the marriage contract, and a dissolution of the bond, and the deserted person may lawfully marry again; otherwise a brother, or a sister in such a case, would be in subjection and bondage to such a person:

but God hath called us to peace; which ought to be sought after and maintained, so far as it can be consistent with truth, the glory of God, the honour of Christ, and interest of religion. The believing party being threatened with a desertion, ought as much as possible to seek for peace and reconciliation, and do all that can be to prevent a departure; for saints are called by the grace of God, to follow after and cultivate peace, not only with one another in their Christian communion as saints, but with all men, even their enemies, and especially with such as are so nearly allied; wherefore the departure should not be easily admitted, or a new marriage be suddenly entered into, reconciliation, if it can be obtained, being most eligible and becoming a Christian.

{10} But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in {m} such cases: {11} but God hath called us to peace.

(10) He answers a question: what if the unfaithful forsake the faithful? Then the faithful is free, he says, because he is forsaken by the unfaithful.

(m) When any such thing happens.

(11) Lest any man upon pretence of this liberty should give an occasion to the unfaithful to depart, he shows that marriage contracted with an infidel ought to be kept peaceably, that if it is possible the infidel may be won to the faith.

1 Corinthians 7:15. Paul had before enjoined that the Christian partner should not make a separation if the non-Christian consents to remain. But what, if the non-Christian partner seeks separation? In that case they were to let such an one go without detention (χωριζέσθω, permissive, see Winer, p. 291 [E. T. 390]); “suas sibi res habeat; frater sororve sit aequo animo,” Bengel. And the reason for this was: “A believer in such circumstances is not enslaved, nay, surely (δέ after the negative clause) it is in peace that God has called us,” so that this our calling forbids such a living together as would be unpeaceful through constraint.

οὐ δεδούλ.] is not enslaved, so, namely, as still to remain bound in marriage to such a χωριζόμενος.[1128] The expression brings out the unworthy character of such a relationship. Comp Galatians 4:3; Plato, Pol. ix. p. 589 E; Soph. Trach. 256; 4Ma 3:3 f., 1 Corinthians 13:2. See, on the other hand, the simple δέδεται in 1 Corinthians 7:39.

ἘΝ ΤΟῖς ΤΟΙΟΎΤΟΙς] not, as Hofmann takes it: “In matters of the natural life,” to which marriage belongs, but in accordance with the context: under such circumstances, i.e. in such a position of things, where the non-believing consort separates himself. Luthers renders well: “in solchen Fällen.” Comp ἘΝ ΤΟῖΣΔΕ, Soph. Oed. Tyr. 892. ἐν τούτοις, Plut. Glor. Ath. p. 350 A; Php 4:11; ἐν οἷς, Antiph. i. 6, and Maetzner in loc[1131], p. 131. Only a comma should be placed after ΤΟΙΟΎΤΟΙς

] is not the same as ΕἸς ΕἸΡΉΝΗΝ (Rosenmüller, Flatt, Rückert, following older expositors; comp also Billroth), or ἽΝΑ ὮΜΕΝ ἘΝ ΕἸΡ. (de Wette, Osiander, Gratama, Maier); for that which is stated is not to what God has called us (see, on the other hand, 1 Corinthians 7:22; 1 Peter 5:10), but in what ethical form God’s call has taken place. He has so called us, namely, to the Messiah’s kingdom, that He therewith caused peace to be proclaimed to us in respect of our relation to others (Ephesians 2:14 ff.). Analogous to this is the ἐν in Ephesians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; comp also on Galatians 1:6. To understand, however, the ΕἸΡΉΝΗ as referring to the peace of the soul with God (Harless, Hofmann) would be possible only if δεδούλ. were to be referred to binding of the conscience. And even in that case we should expect as correlative rather ἐν or ἘΠʼ ἘΛΕΥΘΕΡΊᾼ (Galatians 5:13).

[1128] Weiss, in the Deutsch. Zeitschr. 1866, p. 267 (comp. his bibl. Theol. p. 423), understands δεδούλ. of the burden of the conscience in view of Christ’s command respecting the indissolubleness of marriage. Precisely so Hofmann. But had Paul meant this, he must have indicated it more particularly. According to the context, οὐ δεδούλ. is the opposite of the μὴ ἀφιέτω in vv. 12, 13, denoting legal necessity, like δἑδεται in ver. 39

[1131] n loc. refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.


Since desertion (χωρίζεται) appears here as an admissible ground for divorce, this has been thought to conflict with Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9, and various explanations have been attempted (see Wolf in lo[1134]). But the seeming contradiction vanishes, if we consider 1 Corinthians 7:12, according to which Jesus had given no judgment upon mixed marriages; Matthew 5:32, therefore, can only bind the believing consort, in so far that he may not be the one who leaves. If, however, he is left by the non-believing partner, then, as this case does not fall under the utterance of Christ, the marriage may be looked upon as practically dissolved, and the believing partner is not bound. But to apply, as is often done, the permissive χωριζέσθω also to such marriages as are Christian on both sides—the χωριζόμενος, that is to say, being an unchristianly-minded Christian (Harless)—is exegetically inadmissible, seeing that the ΛΟΙΠΟΊ who are here spoken of (see 1 Corinthians 7:12) constitute the specific category of mixed marriages, in which, therefore, the one partner in each case falls to be reckoned among τοὺς ἔξω. So also pref. to 4th ed. p. vii. f.

Our text gives no express information upon the point, whether Paul would allow the Christian partner in such a union to marry again. For what οὐ δεδούλωται negatives is not the constraint “ut caelebs maneat” (Grotius, al[1135]), but the necessity for the marriage being continued.[1136] It may be inferred, however, that as in Paul’s view mixed marriages did not come under Christ’s prohibition of divorce, so neither would he have applied the prohibition of remarriage in Matthew 5:32 to the case of such unions. Olshausen is wrong in holding a second marriage in such cases unlawful, on the ground of its being, according to Matthew, l.c[1137], a μοιχεία. Christ Himself took no account of mixed marriages. Nor would 1 Corinthians 7:11, which does not refer to marriages of that kind, be at variance with the remarriage of the believing partner (in opposition to Weiss, bibl. Theol. l.c[1138]).

[1134] n loc refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1135] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[1136] Photius, as cited by Oecumenius, says very justly: οὐκ ἔχει ἀνάγκην ὁ πιστὸς ἢ ἡ πιστὴ ἐν τοῖς ἀπίστοις τοιαύτην, οἷα αὐτῷ ἐπίκειται ἐπὶ τῶν πιστῶν· ἐκεῖ μὲν γὰρ παντὶ τρόπῳ, χωρὶς λόγου πορνείας οὐκ ἔξεστιν ἀπʼ ἀλλήλων τοὺς συναφθέντας χωρισθῆναι· ἐνταῦθα δὲ, ἂν μὲν συνευδοκῇ τὸ ἄπιστον μέρον τῷ πιστῷ συνοικεῖν, δεῖ μὴ λύειν τὸ συνοικέσιον· ἂν δὲ στασιάζῃ καὶ τὴν λύσιν ἐκεῖνος ποιῇ, οὐ δεδούλωται ὁ πιστὸς εἰς τὸ μὴ χωρισθῆναι.

[1137] .c. loco citato or laudato.

[1138] .c. loco citato or laudato.

1 Corinthians 7:15 a. The Christian wife or husband is not to seek divorce from the non-Christian (1 Corinthians 7:12-14); but if the latter insists on separation, it is not to be refused: “But if the unbeliever separates, he may separate”—let the separation take its course (χωριζὲσθω, pr[1049] impv[1050]): for this impv[1051] of consent, cf. 1 Corinthians 7:36, 1 Corinthians 14:38.—οὐ δεδούλωται (pf. of fixed condition) “the brother or the sister in such circumstances is not kept in bondage”; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:39—the stronger vb[1052] of this passage implies that for the repudiated party to continue bound to the repudiator would be slavery. Christ’s law forbids putting away (1 Corinthians 7:10 ff.), but does not forbid the one put away to accept dismissal. Whether the freedom of the innocent divorced extends to remarriage, does not appear: the Roman Church takes the negative view—though contrary to the Canon Law (see Wordsworth, in loc.); the Lutheran Church the affirmative, allowing remarriage on desertio malitiosa; “in view of 1 Corinthians 7:11, the inference that the divorced should remain unmarried is the safer” (so Hn[1053], against Mr[1054]). If, however, the repudiator forms a new union, cutting off the hope of restoration, the case appears then to come under the exception made in Matthew 5:31. With ἐν τοιούτοις, neut., cf. ἐν τούτοις, Romans 8:37; and ἐν οἷς, Php 4:11.

[1049] present tense.

[1050] imperative mood.

[1051] imperative mood.

[1052] verb

[1053] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1054] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

1 Corinthians 7:15 b, 1 Corinthians 7:16. ἐν δὲ εἰρήνῃ ὁ Θεόςσώσεις; The Christian spouse forsaken by the heathen is free from the former yoke; but such freedom is undesirable. Two considerations make against it: Peace is better for a Christian than disruption ( 1 Corinthians 7:15 b); and there is the possibility of saving the unbeliever by remaining with him, or her (1 Corinthians 7:16). Thus P. reverts, by the contrastive δέ, to his prevailing thought, that the marriage tie, once formed, should in every way possible be maintained. On this view of the connexion, the full stop should be set at ἐν τοιούτοις, and the colon at ὁ Θεός. “In peace,” etc.—opposed to χωριζέσθω, like καταλλαγήτω in 1 Corinthians 7:11—appeals to the ruling temper of the Christian life, determined once for all by God’s call in the Gospel, “ex quo consequitur retinendum esse nobis infidelem, ac omnibus officiis demerendum; nedum ut vel eum ipsi deseramus, vel ad nos deserendos provocemus” (Bz[1055]); cf. Romans 12:18, for the general thought. For the construction of ἐν εἰρήνῃ, cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:7, Galatians 1:6, Ephesians 4:4.

[1055] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

15. A brother or a sister is not under bondage (literally, enslaved) in such cases] The Roman Catholic divines, e.g. à Lapide and Ambrosiaster, as well as the Canon law, held that in the case of the heathen partner refusing to live with the other when he or she embraced Christianity, the Christian was justified in contracting a fresh marriage. See Wordsworth, in loc.

to peace] The marginal in peace is to be preferred, as signifying the spirit in which God called us.

1 Corinthians 7:15. ) ἢ ἡ ἄπιστος.—χωριζέσθω, let—be separated) Let him be divorced. A brother or a sister should be patient, and not think that that ought to be changed, which he or she cannot change. [The believing party is not bound to renounce the faith for the sake of the unbelieving party.—V. g.]—οὐ δεδούλωται, is not under bondage) There was more decided liberty in the latter case on this account, that the believing party was not likely to obtain much assistance from the unbelieving magistrate; although, even in the present day, the same principle holds good for liberty and peace; but with that exception [proviso], let her remain unmarried, 1 Corinthians 7:11.—ἐν δὲ εἰρήνῃ, but in peace) An axiomatic truth; one that proceeds from things internal to things external. There had been formerly enmity, Ephesians 2:15.

Verse 15. - If the unbelieving depart. The sense of the word rendered "depart" is rather "wishes to be separated." Is not under bondage; literally, has not been enslaved. Our Lord assumes one cause alone - unfaithfulness - as adequate for the disruption of the marriage tie; but he was not contemplating, as St. Paul is, the case of mixed marriages. To peace; rather, in peace. Peace is to be the sphere in which the calling comes, and in which it issues. Milton, in his 'Tetrachordon,' quotes Maimonides to the effect that "divorce was permitted by Moses to preserve peace in marriage and quiet in the family." Similarly, a voluntary separation might be the only possible means of preserving moral peace where the union was between souls separated from each other by so vast a gulf as those of a pagan and a Christian. 1 Corinthians 7:15Is not under bondage (οὐ δεδούλωται)

A strong word, indicating that Christianity has not made marriage a state of slavery to believers. Compare δέδεται is bound, 1 Corinthians 7:39, a milder word. The meaning clearly is that willful desertion on the part of the unbelieving husband or wife sets the other party free. Such cases are not comprehended in Christ's words.

Hath called us to peace (ἐν εἰρήνη κέκληκεν ἡμᾶς)

Rev., correctly, in peace. Compare Galatians 1:6, "into the grace" (ἐν χάριτι, Rev., in); Ephesians 4:4, in one hope (ἐν μιᾷ ἐλπίδι); 1 Thessalonians 4:7, in sanctification (ἐν ἁγιασμῷ). Denoting the sphere or element of the divine calling. Enslavement in the marriage relation between the believer and the unbeliever is contrary to the spirit and intent of this calling.

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