The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 7:15 Explained

1 Corinthians 7:15

KJV: 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.

YLT: And, if the unbelieving doth separate himself -- let him separate himself: the brother or the sister is not under servitude in such cases, and in peace hath God called us;

Darby: But if the unbeliever go away, let them go away; a brother or a sister is not bound in such cases, but God has called us in peace.

ASV: 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.

What does 1 Corinthians 7:15 Mean?

Verse Meaning

On the other hand if the unbeliever in a mixed marriage wants to break up the marriage, the believing partner should allow him or her to do so. The reason for this is that God wants peace to exist in human relationships. It is better to have a peaceful relationship with an unbelieving spouse who has departed than it is to try to hold the marriage together. This is true if holding the marriage together will only result in constant antagonism and increasing hostility in the home. However, notice that the Christian does not have the option of departing ( 1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
Another view is that Paul meant that separation should be prevented if at all possible since that would disrupt the peace of the marriage union. [1] However this view presupposes that peace existed between the husband and wife, which seems unlikely since one of them wanted a divorce from the other.
When the unbeliever departs, the Christian is no longer under bondage (Gr. douleuo, lit. to be a slave). Does this refer to bondage to hold the marriage together or bondage to remain unmarried? Many of the commentators believed it means that the Christian is free to let the unbeliever depart; he or she does not have an obligation to maintain the marriage. [2] Among these some hold that the believer is not free to remarry (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:11). [3] Most of these believe that the Christian is free to remarry. [4] The Greek text does not solve this problem. I think Paul was not addressing the idea of remarrying here.
I would counsel a Christian whose unsaved spouse has divorced him or her to remain unmarried as long as there is a possibility that the unsaved person may return. However if the unsaved spouse who has departed remarries, I believe the Christian would be free to remarry since, by remarrying, the unsaved partner has closed the door on reconciliation. [5]

Context Summary

1 Corinthians 7:15-24 - Serve God In Your Calling
There was much unsettlement in regard to marriage in the church at Corinth. An unnatural asceticism was showing itself in some quarters and a lawless self-indulgence in others. Against these tendencies Paul resolutely set himself. While he held that marriage should be contracted only in the Lord, he also taught that where it had been consummated it should not be dissolved at the instance of the Christian, though the wish of the unbelieving partner might be acceded to. Children, also, born when one of their parents was a heathen, might be reckoned clean.
The Apostle refers both to vocation and to the Christian life as a divine calling, 1 Corinthians 7:18-24. We are all called to our trade or profession as much as a student is to the ministry. It is interesting that a man will speak of his business as his calling. God has a purpose for each of us, and summons us to fulfill it. Unless we are specially led to do otherwise, we should, on entering the Christian life, remain in the same calling in which our former life was spent. The only difference is that we are to stay in it with God, 1 Corinthians 7:24. In every service, however lowly, we should have an eye toward Christ. All may be done in Him, with Him, for Him. [source]

Chapter Summary: 1 Corinthians 7

1  He discusses marriage;
4  showing it to be a remedy against sinful desires,
10  and that the bond thereof ought not lightly to be dissolved
20  Every man must be content with his vocation
25  Virginity wherefore to be embraced;
35  and for what respects we may either marry, or abstain from marrying

Greek Commentary for 1 Corinthians 7:15

Is not under bondage [ου δεδουλωται]
Perfect passive indicative of δουλοω — douloō to enslave, has been enslaved, does not remain a slave. The believing husband or wife is not at liberty to separate, unless the disbeliever or pagan insists on it. Wilful desertion of the unbeliever sets the other free, a case not contemplated in Christ‘s words in Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9. Luther argued that the Christian partner, thus released, may marry again. But that is by no means clear, unless the unbeliever marries first. [source]
But God hath called us in peace [εν δε ειρηνηι κεκληκεν ημας]
Perfect active indicative of καλεω — kaleō permanent call in the sphere or atmosphere of peace. He does not desire enslavement in the marriage relation between the believer and the unbeliever. [source]
Is not under bondage [οὐ δεδούλωται]
A strong word, indicating that Christianity has not made marriage a state of slavery to believers. Compare δέδεται isbound, 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. [source]
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. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for 1 Corinthians 7:15

Mark 9:19 Faithless [ἄπιστος]
Faithless has acquired the sense of treacherous, not keeping faith. But Christ means without faith, and such is Tyndale's translation. Wyc., out of belief. Unbelieving would be better here. The Rev. retains this rendering of the A. V. at 1 Corinthians 7:14, 1 Corinthians 7:15; Titus 1:15; Revelation 21:8, and elsewhere. [source]
1 Corinthians 9:5 A sister, a wife []
Wrong. Sister means a christian woman, a fellow-member of the Church, as Romans 16:1; 1 Corinthians 7:15; James 2:15. It is in apposition with wife: A wife that is a sister or believer. So Rev. Such an one has also the right, like her husband, to be maintained by the Church. Some of the fathers claimed that not a wife was meant, but a female attendant, serviens mantrona, who contributed to the maintenance of the apostles as certain women ministered to Christ. There is no foundation for this. It is contradicted by the example of Peter cited at the end of this verse; compare Matthew 8:14; and besides, the point of the argument is that these companions should be maintained. Such a practice, however, did grow up in the Church, but was abolished by the Council of Nicaea on account of its abuses. Stanley remarks that the fact of these women accompanying their husbands, may be explained by the necessity of females to gain access to and to baptize the female converts in Greece and in oriental countries; the same necessity which gave rise to the order of deaconesses. [source]
1 Corinthians 7:17 But [εἰ μὴ]
Rev., only. Introducing a limitation to the statement in 1 Corinthians 7:15. There is to be no enslavement, only, to give no excuse for the reckless abuse of this general principle, the normal rule of Christian life is that each one should seek to abide in the position in which God has placed him. [source]
1 Corinthians 7:17 Only [ει μη]
This use of ει μη — ei mē as an elliptical condition is very common (1 Corinthians 7:5; Galatians 1:7, Galatians 1:19; Romans 14:14), “except that” like πλην — plēn Paul gives a general principle as a limitation to what he has just said in 1 Corinthians 7:15. “It states the general principle which determines these questions about marriage, and this is afterwards illustrated by the cases of circumcision and slavery” (Robertson and Plummer). He has said that there is to be no compulsory slavery between the believer and the disbeliever (the Christian and the pagan). But on the other hand there is to be no reckless abuse of this liberty, no license. [source]
Galatians 5:8 Him that calleth [τοῦ καλοῦντος]
Very often applied to God by Paul. See Romans 8:30; Romans 9:11; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 7:15; Galatians 1:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:121 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:14. The persuasion to subject yourselves to the Jewish law does not proceed from him who called you to freedom in Christ. [source]
Ephesians 4:4 In one hope of your calling [ἐν μιᾷ ἐλπίδι τῆς κλήσεως ὑμῶν]
In, not by. Their calling took place in the one hope as its moral element or sphere, since they were called to fellowship with Christ who is the one object and the one inspirer of hope. Compare called in peace, 1 Corinthians 7:15; in sanctification, 1 Thessalonians 4:7(Rev.). Hope here is not the object but the principle of hope. The phrase hope of your calling signifies hope which is characteristic of God's call to salvation, and is engendered by it. See on Ephesians 1:18. [source]
1 Thessalonians 4:7 In sanctification [ἐν]
Note the change of preposition. Sanctification is the characteristic life-element of the Christian, in which he is to live. Comp. in peace, 1 Corinthians 7:15; in hope, Ephesians 4:4. [source]

What do the individual words in 1 Corinthians 7:15 mean?

If however the unbeliever separates himself let him separate himself not is under bondage brother or the sister in - such [cases] Into peace has called you - God
Εἰ δὲ ἄπιστος χωρίζεται χωριζέσθω οὐ δεδούλωται ἀδελφὸς ἀδελφὴ ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις ἐν εἰρήνῃ κέκληκεν ὑμᾶς Θεός

δὲ  however 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: δέ  
Sense: but, moreover, and, etc.
ἄπιστος  unbeliever 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: ἄπιστος  
Sense: unfaithful, faithless, (not to be trusted, perfidious).
χωρίζεται  separates  himself 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Passive, 3rd Person Singular
Root: χωρίζω  
Sense: to separate, divide, part, put asunder, to separate one’s self from, to depart.
χωριζέσθω  let  him  separate  himself 
Parse: Verb, Present Imperative Middle or Passive, 3rd Person Singular
Root: χωρίζω  
Sense: to separate, divide, part, put asunder, to separate one’s self from, to depart.
δεδούλωται  is  under  bondage 
Parse: Verb, Perfect Indicative Middle or Passive, 3rd Person Singular
Root: δουλόω  
Sense: to make a slave of, reduce to bondage.
ἀδελφὸς  brother 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: ἀδελφός  
Sense: a brother, whether born of the same two parents or only of the same father or mother.
ἀδελφὴ  sister 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Feminine Singular
Root: ἀδελφή  
Sense: a full, own sister.
τοῖς  - 
Parse: Article, Dative Neuter Plural
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
τοιούτοις  such  [cases] 
Parse: Demonstrative Pronoun, Dative Neuter Plural
Root: τοιοῦτος  
Sense: such as this, of this kind or sort.
ἐν  Into 
Parse: Preposition
Root: ἐν 
Sense: in, by, with etc.
εἰρήνῃ  peace 
Parse: Noun, Dative Feminine Singular
Root: εἰρήνη  
Sense: a state of national tranquillity.
κέκληκεν  has  called 
Parse: Verb, Perfect Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: καλέω  
Sense: to call.
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Singular
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Θεός  God 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: θεός  
Sense: a god or goddess, a general name of deities or divinities.