First Corinthians 7:15, The Marriage Covenant, & The Nature Of Desertion -- By: David J. Huffstutler

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 21:0 (NA 2016)
Article: First Corinthians 7:15, The Marriage Covenant, & The Nature Of Desertion
Author: David J. Huffstutler


First Corinthians 7:15, The Marriage Covenant, & The Nature Of Desertion

David J. Huffstutler1

Divorce is a difficult topic to address on both theological and practical levels. Even when this topic is carefully studied by the best of Christian scholars, conclusions on the topic and their practical applications can yield a spectrum of beliefs and practices. When discussing divorce, charity is essential.

Realizing the varied beliefs that many have on the topic of divorce, this article seeks to investigate a difficult issue that exists within the position that allows for divorce in certain circumstances, the majority position on divorce within evangelical theology today.2 Additionally, this article will carry out this investigation from the understanding that marriage is a covenant relationship, a position to be surveyed briefly below.3 Whether a reader approaches this article to better research his own position or that of his fellow Christian, all may be edified along the way.

Though Christians who allow for divorce vary as to what circumstances they believe allow for a divorce, all within this position agree that Paul commands a believing spouse to allow the unbelieving spouse to leave a marriage: “if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so” (1 Cor 7:15).4 This allowance is commonly termed either the Pauline privilege or desertion in that Paul “privileges” the believer to allow the unbeliever to “desert” the marriage through divorce. What is sometimes unclear, however, is whether the term desertion may refer to circumstances beyond the situation that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 7:15.

The purpose of this article is to review the Pauline privilege in 1 Corinthians 7:15, examine the marriage covenant by means of brief

survey of the Old Testament, and explore whether or not a theology of the marriage covenant allows for further definition of desertion in 1 Corinthians 7:15.

First Corinthians 7:15 And The Pauline Privilege

In 1 Corinthians 7:1-16, Paul addressed the Corinthians’ view that “it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” (1 Cor 7:1).

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