THE ALLEGED PAULINE PRIVILEGE

 

 

           Today’s astronomical divorce rates in both the private sector and in the Lord’s Church have sky rocketed to more than 50 percent in just the past 50 years.  Sad to say, one out every two marriages now ends in a divorce.  Because of these alarming and unparalleled national divorce statistics, many are unwittingly exploring new and creative ways to divorce and remarry while hoping to maintain their righteous relationship with God.  To this end, one of the more creative reasons for divorce and remarriage is known as the “Pauline Privilege”. 

This misguided doctrine suggests that Apostle Paul gave supplemental information on divorce and remarriage in 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 that supports the notion of another legitimate option for breaking the Biblical marriage bond.  Advocates of this unwise position claim Paul allows a Christian to remarry if their non-Christian spouse abandons them.   However, it will hereafter be Scripturally shown that Apostle Paul actually upholds God’s original design for His institution of marriage from Genesis 2 and that the alleged Pauline Privilege is not necessarily a new doctrine but an old theological deception that can be traced back many centuries to an earlier Chrysostom.  

Therefore, going forward, let us truthfully examine what Scriptures actually say on the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage.   

Those who would be Christians (Christ like) must understand that the Word of God itself demands that an individual can remarry IF and ONLY their spouse commits “fornication” or one of the two marriage partners unfortunately dies (Matt. 19:9; Rom. 7:1-4).   

           Therefore, before we consider divorce and remarriage, we need to analyze God’s original intended design for the institution of “marriage”.  Marriage was created by God for the most notable and basic purposes of:  

1. To provide needed companionship for man and woman (Gen. 2:18-20).

2. For reproduction purposes (Gen. 1:28, 9:1; 1 Tim. 5:4).  

3. To prevent fornication (1 Cor. 7:2-5; Prov. 5:18-21).  

Thus, God has always intended for marriage to be lasting and permanent (Mat. 19:6; Rom. 7:1-4; Mal. 2:16).  Marriage is honorable in the sight of God and the martial relationship is holy (Heb. 13:4).  These stated Passages reveal that marriage is to be taken seriously and embraced as a gift from God.   

So how did Jesus respond to the question of marriage?  In Matthew 19:3 - 9  (See also Mk. 10:2-12).

Matthew 19:3-9 (KJV)
3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
 

           In the above Passage, the Pharisees once again tried to Scripturally entrap Jesus.  They cleverly wanted to know if one could legally divorce their wife for any reason.  Whereas, Jesus emphatically tells them NO, because what God has/had joined together let not man put asunder/separate.  They subsequently and immediately ask him why Moses had allowed divorcement and Jesus tells them that it was only permitted because of the hardness in their hearts.  Nonetheless, please notice the last part of verse 8...  Jesus declares to them that from the very beginning of time it was never God’s intention for man to divorce his wife, nor visa versa – they were intended to be “one flesh”.   

This then teaches us that God has a universal law when it comes to marriage and divorce which applies to ALL mankind.  Mistakenly many try to twist verse 9 into saying that it only applies to Christians, thus the non-Christian is not accountable to Jesus’ commandments.  However, verse 9 makes it perfectly clear that it encompasses every single person living.  Notice it says “WHOSOEVER divorces”...  The word “whosoever” used here means every single person and that includes Christians AND non-Christians alike.  Please note the following example. (emphasis added)  

    Mat. 5:21… “WHOSOEVER shall kills (murders) shall be in danger of the judgment.”          

We can clearly see the word “WHOSOEVER” applies to everyone here.  To further illustrate this point, consider Mat. 5:32.  

Matthew 5:32... “But I say to you that WHOSOEVER shall put away his wife, SAVING for the cause of fornication causeth her to commit adultery; and
                                       WHOSOEVER shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery.”
 

           Thus, Jesus is stating that WHOSOEVER (every human person – ALL included) divorces his wife for any reason EXCEPT/SAVING for fornication CAUSES her to commit adultery and WHOSOEVER (every single person) marries a women who is divorced (put away for fornication) commits adultery.  Thus, the point and fact is the use of the word EXCEPT/SAVING in Matt. 5:32 & 19:9 is that when Jesus used this conditional word it automatically eliminates ANY and ALL other legitimate reasons for divorce and a subsequent remarriage.  Moreover then, ONLY "fornication" can constitute a Biblical reason for divorce where the innocent party can remarry without thereafter living in adultery.  

Let us further examine Matt. 19:9 in relation to another Passage – Jn. 14:6, that clearly shows the exclusive nature of the English translated word “EXCEPT” from the Greek “ei mē” (Strong’s #1508) - emphasis added.  

John 14:6...  Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father BUT (except) by me.” 

           It is easy for us to see that the ONLY way to the Father is through Jesus.  If we can easily see the exclusiveness of EXCEPT in this Passage then we should equally be able to see it in Mat. 5:32 & 19:9.  When Jesus tells us the ONLY exception that will permit an individual who is divorced to remarry on Scriptural grounds is fornication, then we need to accept the fact that no other way can possibly exist.  This is extremely important for us to recognize because whatever interpretation one implies for 1 Cor. 7:15 it CANNOT add any other reason for a Scriptural remarriage subsequent to a divorce or it will contradict what Jesus Himself said in Mat. 5:32 & 19:9.   

Meanwhile, why would any Bible believing Christian ever try to add another way to the Father other than that proclaimed by Jesus in John 14:6?   To this end, what makes some Christians think they can add another option for remarriage in Mat. 5:32 & 19:9?  This within itself shows that 1 Cor. 7:15 CANNOT be interpreted as an additional way to Scripturally remarry after one is divorced.  

           Going forward, there are some that insist on arguing that Jesus was only reinterpreting Moses’ Law and that Mat. 5:32 & 19:9 doesn’t apply to Christians today.  However, this dogma presents a major problem in that under Moses’ Law an adulterer was put to death. 

Deuteronomy 22:22 “If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with
                                     the woman, and  the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.”

Leviticus 20:10 ... “And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife,
                                 the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”
(See also John 8:4-5).  

           Jesus was most certainly not talking about the Mosaic Law respective of Mat. 5:32 & 19:9, because He simply reveals the adulterer was to be put away/divorced and most certainly not killed – even though the offended spouse may wish too.  Therefore, Jesus was teaching His NT doctrine that applies to everyone today and was not simply reinterpreting the Mosaic Law.  

           Many also like to say that Mat. 5:32 & 19:9 doesn’t apply to non-Christians.  Meanwhile, this opinion implies that it would be impossible for a non-Christian to be held accountable for adultery or fornication.  However, this view has some major problems as well.  I have already shown that “WHOSOEVER” cited in Mat. 5:32 & 19:9 above includes both Christians and non-Christians.  As such, the Word of God emphatically states there are fornicating people in the world (1 Cor. 5:9-10) and that non-Christians were/are guilty of adultery and many other sins before they ever became/become Christians (1Cor. 6:9-11).    

Even John the Baptist attest to God’s universal law of divorce and remarriage (adultery) in Mk. 6:17: 

Mark 6:17-18 (KJV)
17 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her.
18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.

           Thus, Herod was a Gentile and consequently Moses’ Law would not apply to him.  Therefore, the only reasonable explanation is that Herod’s fornicating/adulterous actions violated God’s universal law of marriage that had its beginning with Adam and Eve - as was readily expressed by Jesus in Mat. 19:8.  Thus, as stated, both Christians and non-Christians alike regarding marriage and remarriage must behave according to the same set of universal Biblical rules.   

Meanwhile, in 1 Cor. 7:10-15 we read the following Passages respected to the alleged Pauline Privilege... 

1 Corinthians 7:10-15 (KJV)
10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
14 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.
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.

           In these cited Passages above Paul addresses the Corinthians questions regarding marriage and remarriage...  Moreover, please note that these specifically stated verses are the only ones in all of Scripture that are invoked for affirmation respective of the supposed Pauline Privilege.  However, the first and foremost premise of these verses is intended to reveal and enforce the supposition that one is to remain married to their mate if at all possible.  Likewise, verses 10 – 11 teach that a wife is not to willingly leave her husband capriciously and if she does leave, she is to remain unmarried or she has the option of reconciliation back to her husband.  In doing so her husband is not to put her away/divorce her unless she commits fornication.  In verses 12 – 13 Paul specifically deals with a Christian being married to a non-Christian and once again, we see a similar response. 

          Thus, it is incumbent upon a Christian, whether male or female, to exhaust ever effort to remain married and NOT divorce.  As he states in verse 16, the believer just might lead their non-believing spouse to Christ.  

           Now let’s examine the one specific verse where this doctrine comes from. (emphasis added)   

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 has called us unto peace  

           The entire argument of this controversial Passage stems from the misunderstanding of the phrase “under bondage”.  As stated before, I have already shown from Mat. 5:32, 19:9 that there cannot be another exception for a divorced person to remarry other than fornication.  Moreover, why would Paul make it acceptable for a Christian to remarry after a non-Christian departs yet in verse 10-11 he forbids the married couple from divorcing or from remarrying?  Likewise, why would Paul make it acceptable for a Christian to remarry after a non-Christian departs when Jesus Himself had earlier declared that WHOSOEVER (Christian or non-Christian) divorces his wife and marries another - EXCEPT for fornication, commits adultery?  What authority would Paul have in contradicting Jesus? 

           To confirm this point we need to examine the phrase “under bondage” from the Biblical Greek language.  The Greek word used here is “douloo” and means “to make a slave of”.  This word can only be found in eight different verses.  For instance, it is used to describe being a slave to wine (Titus 2:3), the world (Gal. 4:3), and to righteousness (Rom. 6:18).  Meanwhile, this Greek word is never used to describe the marriage bond – douloo describes slavery.  The word used for a marriage bond is the Greek word “deo” which can be seen in (1 Cor. 7:27, 39; Rom. 7:2).   

To further illustrate this affirmation we need to examine the Greek tense of the phrase “under bondage” which is a “verb indicative perfect passive 3rd person singular”.  The perfect tense in Greek form of this word means that its present state resulted from a past action.  In other words, grammatically we can say that the person was not under bondage in the past nor are they under bondage in their current state.  Therefore, if “under bondage” is referring to the marriage bond, then Paul is stating that these Christians were not under the marriage bond in the past and were not under the marriage bond at the present.  If they were never bound to the marriage then why would Paul ask them to remained married?   

           So, what does “not under bondage” actually mean?  The best explanation is that Apostle Paul is teaching that a person is not a slave to their marriage.  If a non-Christian decides to leave we should not try to force them to stay nor should we compromise our faithfulness and moral Christian values in order to save the marriage.  In summary, there is no such legitimacy for divorce and remarriage respective of the Pauline Privilege in 1 Cor. 7:15.

            In summary, if such an "alleged" Pauline Privilege actually was a legitimate Biblical grounds for divorce - then why did Jesus clearly declare that, WHOSOVER puts away his wife EXCEPT/SAVING for the cause of fornication CAUSES her to commit adultery (Pauline Privilege), and WHOSEVER marries her after she is divorced commits adultery.

        Matthew 5:32 (KJV)
     32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, CAUSETH her to commit adultery: and whosoever
        shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.