"I now believe that 1 Corinthians 7:15 implies that divorce may be legitimate in other circumstances that damage the marriage as severely as adultery or desertion. This change in my position has come because I reached a new understanding of Paul’s expression 'in such cases' in 1 Corinthians 7:15." - CBMW
"I would love for all followers of Jesus to come to a better understanding of 1 Timothy 3:2; not just for my sake, but for the overall health and sanctification of Christ’s body. To that end, I am thankful for the faithful and gracious teaching of Dr. Thomas Schreiner in the video below." - John Ellis
"At last week’s annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Grudem gave a talk titled 'Grounds for Divorce: Why I Now Believe There Are More Than Two.' In it, he cited biblical exegesis plus real-life examples for his revised position." - Church Leaders
As reviewed earlier, Paul clearly allows for a believer to remain passive when an unbelieving spouse divorces and deserts their marriage according to 1 Corinthians 7:15. From the explanation above, though a spouse may actively divorce a spouse who has broken the marriage covenant in some way, the command in 1 Corinthians 7:15 is to be passive when being divorced. This contrast implies that the marriage covenant has an indirect bearing on the Pauline Privilege in 1 Corinthians 7:15 at best. Nonetheless, it is still helpful to see how the marriage covenant can better inform a believer to carry out the command of 1 Corinthians 7:15 in a number of situations.
As seen above in 1 Corinthians 7:1–16, the Corinthians were deliberately avoiding sexual relations within the context of marriage. From the definition of a marriage covenant given above, this refusal could be regarded as a breach of the covenant (cf. Exod 21:10–11; Ezek 16:8, 16–19, 59). However, Paul does not encourage spouses to end the marriage but instead to fulfill this aspect of their marriage and to not deprive one another (cf. 1 Cor 7:3–5).
A review of the Pauline privilege in hand, this article will now examine a biblical marriage covenant by means of surveying the primary Old Testament passages that show marriage to be a covenant relationship. Though the constraints of this article do not allow for a detailed theology of a marriage covenant, the basic nature and obligations of a marriage covenant may be seen by a survey of five Old Testament passages: Exodus 21:10–11; Deuteronomy 24:1–4; Malachi 2:14; Ezekiel 16:8, 59, 60, 62; and Proverbs 2:16–17.14 The final section of this paper will use this survey to conclude whether or not the marriage covenant has any bearing on the nature of desertion in 1 Corinthians 7:15.
If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.
Exodus 21:10–11 instructed the Israelites in what to do when a man married to a slave-wife married another woman. If he did not provide the slave-wife with food, clothing, or sexual relations, she was no longer obligated to remain in the marriage. She was free to divorce him and leave.15