November 20, 2017

Response to “A Study of ‘Bondage’ in 1 Corinthians 7:15”

By Jerry F. Bassett

Brother Weldon E. Warnock, in reviewing my article "Not Under Bondage," began by referring to "those brethren who see another cause for divorce and remarriage in 1 Corinthians 7:15," then quoted James D. Bales, eventually touched on my "football coach" illustration, and closed implying that I had refused to discuss with him what God requires of divorced and remarried aliens.

I did not refuse to discuss the alien question with brother Warnock. In a letter dated 3-30-89, I asked him to look at my exchange with Ken Leach when it appears and suggested that he might be interested in doing something of the same kind in GOT. I said, ". . A would simply submit the same material with whatever modifications might be in order. As with brother Leach, I would expect you, in turn, to write an affirmation of what you believe, i.e., that aliens who have divorced for causes other than fornication and then married another person must divorce in order to be saved in Christ." Further, I would expect equal space to respond without editorial censorship.

Brother Bales is more than adequate to answer for himself. When quoted, however, he (and Bassett) should at least be represented accurately. Neither of us holds that 1 Corinthians 7:15 provides a "cause for divorce." To the contrary, verses 12-13 forbid the believer to divorce the unbelieving partner. Verse 15, then, does not state a cause for divorce. Instead, it declares the status of a believer who is victimized by a resentful unbeliever.

Look at brother Warnock's notice of my "football coach" illustration. He thinks, and has me saying, all married people are on "the same team." Notice, however, that Paul (and therefore Bassett also) distinguished between marriages consisting of two believers and those consisting of a believer and an unbeliever.

Even if Warnock was correct in asserting that both of the foregoing categories of married persons are on the same team, he would be incorrect in using either my illustration or the Scriptures to assert that different players would not be given different rules to play the same game. Football rules allow players on defense to tackle, offensive players may not. Considering the offensive team alone, receivers may run downfield on a pass play, down lineman may not. Yet, the very purpose of these distinctions is to make the game viable and fair.

Warnock contradicts Paul at 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. Paul said that what he wrote to a marriage consisting of two believers had been spoken by. the Lord. On the other hand, he claimed that what he had to say to a marriage consisting of a believer married to an unbeliever had not been spoken by the Lord. Clearly, then, what Paul wrote to believers married to unbelievers was something other than what the Lord had spoken. But Warnock, in effect, asserts that what Paul said is the same for both of these categories. If Warnock is right, Paul must have erred.

Warnock thinks God's loosing the believer to remarry who is divorced by an unbeliever, while requiring believers divorced by a believer to remain unmarried, would be unfair "dangerous business" because it would allow the former to remarry as often as he can find an unbeliever who will divorce him. But this same thinking disparages God's wisdom in loosing the spouse of a fornicator. One could seek morally weak partners, divorce them when they become unfaithful, and thus marry over and over. Fatuous nonsense! Who has ever heard of a Christian in either of these categories marrying for the purpose of divorcing and remarrying?

Commentators

One must remember that commentators are mere humans, and that what they say is therefore uninspired, human opinion. If their views are consistent with the Bible, their comments may be helpful, but the reverse is also true. For example, notice Neandor's comment on Paul's meaning at 1 Corinthians 7:15, ". . that a married Christian person cannot be forced to remain with a heathen consort. " Warnock agrees, saying Paul "means that a Christian is not a slave to men, even a marriage partner." But Paul was projecting a case in which the unbeliever would divorce the believer. Was any Corinthian so dull that Paul had to tell him he could not be forced to remain with a pagan who would not have 1im? This is tantamount to telling a rodeo bronc rider that he must stay in the saddle for seven seconds, but if the horse throws him off he doesn't have to stay on!

Were I to stake my case on a commentator, I would prefer a brother reputed for his piety and reverence as well as his knowledge and keen, analytical mind. I speak of the late R.L. Whiteside. Arguing that "not under bondage" means freedom from the marriage bond, Whiteside went on to say, "Such a condition had not arisen during the personal ministry of Jesus, and there was no occasion for him to mention it. It did arise in Paul's day, and he gave commandment covering this new development. When we get so set in our opinions that we cannot accept a plain declaration of Holy Writ, we should not complain at the denominations for doing the same thing. And we say that the apostles were the final revelators of the will of Christ, and yet we go back on this principle in dealing with 1 Cor. 7:15" (Reflections, pp. 416, 421).

Running to the Greek

If one cannot find what he teaches in any of the several very fine English translations of the New Testament now available to us, but is determined to teach it anyway, where can he go for help? Commonly, such people run to the Greek. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses turn to the Greek at John 1:1 to argue that Jesus Christ is a lower case "god." Baptists argue that baptism cannot be essential to the remission of sins because the number and person of the verbs "repent" and "be baptized" differ at Acts 2:38. Instrumental music advocates insist their instrument is in psalmos and psallo at Ephesians 5:19. And many of us remember that the sponsoring church advocates finally "found" their organizational corruption in the Greek of Philippians 4:15. Regrettably, Brother Warnock pursues the same course. Thus, I must answer to the best of my ability. However, does anyone really think he would resort to this nit-picking of the Greek if he could find his doctrine in the English translations made available to us by the expertise of linguistic scholars? In a word, no!

Douloo and Deo

Refreshingly, Warnock acknowledges that Arndt and Gingrich say douloo ("bondage") is used figuratively at 1 Corinthians 7:15. So do Thayer (p. 158) and Kittel (Vol. II, p. 279).

Furthermore, deo must also be used figuratively in order to refer to marriage. Its basic meaning is "to bind, tie, fasten" (Thayer, p. 131). Thayer says it applies 4 4prop. " (literally) to the tying of an animal (Matt. 21:2) and the chaining of a prisoner (Acts 12:6). How, then, can such a word possibly refer to marriage? It has to be used figuratively! "Metaph.," Thayer says, means "to bind, i.e., put under obligation, sc. (namely) of law, duty, etc." and it is here that he cites Romans 7:2 and 1 Corinthians 7:27,39. Thus a word which is used literally of tying animals and binding prisoners can be used to refer to marriage through a figurative application.

So can douloo. In fact, Thayer treats douloo exactly as he does deo. He says the basic meaning is "to make a slave of, to reduce to bondage" (p. 158). Applied 44prop." (literally) it refers to literal slavery (Acts 7:6). But used "metaph." (figuratively) it means "to be under bondage, held by constraint of law or necessity in some matter." This describes the legal side of marriage, and this is precisely where Thayer places 1 Corinthians 7:15. If deo can be used of marriage, so can douloo, and for the same reason. Each is used figuratively in passages which speak of nothing else but marriage.

Failing to appreciate the figurative use of douloo, Warnock states, ". . Ahe only kind of slavery that a believer has ever been under was before conversion." This is absolutely false. Christians must be slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:18). Paul enslaved himself to those to whom he preached (1 Cor. 9:19).

Some object to the idea Paul would use douloo only once (out of eight uses in the N.T.) to mean marriage while using deo three times (out of forty-four uses in the N.T.). Well, of the thirty-six times hapto is used in the N.T., it means sexual touching only once (1 Cor. 7:1). But spoken by the Lord, once is enough to establish meaning.

The Perfect Tense

Dedoulotai, ("not under bondage" [NUB] at 1 Cor. 7:15) is the perfect indicative of douloo. Warnock says ". - it would not permit it (i.e., "is not under bondage," or "is NUB") to mean the marriage bond." He quotes Monroe Tharp who says, "The brother or sister has not been enslaved and is still not enslaved." He thinks "is NUB" should be translated "has not been enslaved" despite the fact that he cannot cite even one major English version which so translates it. Then he turns to Davis' grammar. Unfortunately, Warnock stopped reading Davis one paragraph too soon. Davis wrote, "The perfect tense as tense is timeless. But in the indicative the time element is present. The perfect indicative generally expresses the present result of a past action. It then has to do with the past and the present" (Sect. 368, p. 152, emphasis supplied). For example, if a man dies, his wife is loosed (Rom. 7:2). The woman's loosed state is the present result. The past action producing this result is her husband's death.

So also at 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul said, ". . a brother or a sister is not under bondage (the present result) in such cases." What case did Paul refer to which constitutes the past action producing this result? Listen to him, "But if the unbeliever departs. . . . " Warnock apparently agrees that this departure is divorce. Paul is saying, then, that the believer is not under bondage as a result of being divorced by the unbeliever. He cannot, therefore, refer to anything other than the marriage bond.

Brother Warnock, if you ever do baptize someone whose spouse therefore threatens divorce action, what will you do? Will you run him/her through the foregoing commentators and Greek acrobatics? Or will you simply speak as the oracles of God? This one will ask, "What if my spouse divorces me?" Say, ". . . a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases." This one will ask further, "Would I then be free to remarry?" Say, " . . . a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. " And having said precisely what the Bible says, be content with the thought, "Enough said!"

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 15, pp. 468-469
August 3, 1989

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