Servants of Corruption

“If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 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. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save [thy] husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save [thy] wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:12-16; underlining mine)

Notice the Apostle’s admonition to the husband and wife, where one is a believer and the other is an unbeliever:

“let him not put her away” and “let her not leave him.”

The reason provided for NOT divorcing is that the believer “sanctifies” the unbeliever (as well as the children). This “sanctifying” is about the unbeliever being in a situation where he or she would be exposed to the gospel in some way (“For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save [thy] husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save [thy] wife?”)

In light of this crucial context, what is the “bondage” that a “brother or a sister is not under” in such cases or situations? The context is clearly the “bondage” of not divorcing; not leaving; not putting the other away. God the Holy Spirit through Paul, says

“but God hath called us to peace.”

When the unbeliever is “pleased to dwell” with the believer there is a semblance of peace — not the kind of peace between two like-minded believers, but a type of peace that is not overtly hostile to the believing spouse (a type of peace that is “pleased to dwell”). Further, the “bondage” of not divorcing a hostile and unbelieving spouse who is NOT “pleased to dwell” would be a bondage of perpetual conflict, war, and hostility — “but God hath called us to peace.”  Thus peace takes precedence over the possible conversion of an overtly hostile spouse who is NOT pleased to dwell with their now believing spouse. And thus this oft-abused passage does NOT give permission to the believing spouse to remarry while the unbelieving spouse is still living (cf. Romans 7:1-3).

In stark contrast to what the Bible teaches concerning divorce and remarriage, here is what Calvin says on the matter.

“This is the second department of his statement, in which he sets at liberty a believing husband, who is prepared to dwell with an unbelieving wife, but is rejected by her, and in like manner a woman who is, without any fault on her part, repudiated by her husband; for in that case the unbelieving party makes a divorce with God rather than with his or her partner. There is, therefore, in this case a special reason, inasmuch as the first and chief bond is not merely loosed, but even utterly broken through” (John Calvin on 1 Corinthians 7:15; underlining mine).

Whatever Calvin means by the unbelieving party making a divorce with God, it is clear that this is NOT an either-or case or a “rather than” case. In other words (granting Calvin’s “divorce with God”), this is a case of “both-and,” and not “rather than.” There clearly HAS BEEN a divorce “with his or her partner,” contrary to Calvin. Also contrary to Calvin is that “the first and chief bond” of marriage is only “utterly broken through” by the death of the original spouse:

“Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to [her] husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of [her] husband. So then if, while [her] husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man” (Romans 7:1-3).

According to the God-breathed Word the woman is set at liberty ONLY by the death of her husband. It is by the death of her husband that the marriage bond has been so “utterly broken through” that she is set at liberty to marry another and be “no adulteress.”

Most (if not all) members of this Reformed brotherhood are the servants of corruption, setting people free to commit adultery; inventing facinorous fictions in order to retain a serpentine hold (2 Peter 2:18-19).