“Bound” and “Loosed”
To be “bound” is to be restricted or tied up. Herod physically
“bound” John and put him in prison (Matt. 14:3). Figuratively,
Paul was “bound in the spirit,” in the sense that apprehension of
the unknown had him tied up (Acts 20:22). By contrast, to be “loosed” is to be
set free from that which restricts us. The disciples were to “loose”
the ass which had been tied up (Mk. 11:2,4). In raising Jesus from the dead, God
“loosed the pains of death,” for He was not to be “holden of it”
The Scriptures speak of husbands and wives being “bound” and
“loosed.” By whom or what is a husband and wife bound? How long are
they bound? If two people are not married any longer, are they no longer bound?
Can one mate be “loosed” while the other mate “bound?”
All binding and loosing is done by God in heaven. Jesus promised Peter and the
apostles, “whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”
(Matt. 16:19, 18:18), meaning, the binding and loosing the apostles did in their
role as presenting the word of the kingdom, had already been done by God in
heaven. All binding or loosing comes first from God and is communicated by law
One is bound by God to a mate in marriage by law. Paul writes, “For the
woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband...” (Rom.
7:2a). Two people may agree to marry one another and enter into a marriage
covenant with one another. But God is the third party in the marriage who
witnesses the marriage and joins two people who, according God’s law, have a
right to marry one another (Mal. 2:14; Matt. 19:6). Through His law, God
obligates the husband and wife to further restrictions. The wife is not bound to
the husband only for as long as she wants to consider him her husband, for
Paul's full statement is, “For the woman that hath a husband is bound by
law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged
from the law of the husband” (Rom. 7:2). The two are bound by law to one
another for life, not just till one or both get tired of one another and desire
a new mate.
We sometimes hear people speak of the “marriage bond” in a way that equates
marriage with the bond. Some reason that when one ceases to be married to his
mate, he also ceases to be bound. Such thinking is unscriptural. For Paul
further instructs his readers, “So then if, while the husband liveth, she
be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband
die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be
joined to another man” (Rom. 7:3). Here is a case in which a woman joins
herself in marriage to another man, while her first husband is still living.
While she is joined to another man in marriage, she is called an adulteress.
Why? Because she is still bound by the restriction of law to her first husband.
We know Paul is speaking of being joined in marriage here, and not speaking of
some sexual fling, because the woman can be joined to another man and not be
called an adulteress. When? She is only loosed from the restrictions of law or
ceases to be bound by law to her first husband when he dies.
Even though Herod and Herodias were married to each other, Herodias was still
the wife of Philip, and the law condemned Herod having his brother's wife (Mk.
6:17-18). Herodias was bound to Philip, but married to Herod. Being bound or
restricted by law to Philip had not ended just because Herodias left that
marriage to enter a new one.
The two Christians in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 are no longer married to one
another, for Paul commands the wife to “remain unmarried.” But
they are still bound to one another or restricted by law to their mate, for they
are to “remain unmarried, or be reconciled” to one another. They
are not married to one another but they are still bound to one another by God's
Others reason that when one is scripturally divorced, being put away for
committing fornication (Matt. 19:9), and since God frees the innocent partner,
no longer binding him or her for life to the fornicating mate, then, to whom is
the guilty fornicator bound? Since the marriage has now ended “scripturally,”
then so has the “bond,” and both parties are free to marry.
Such thinking fails to see that further restrictions of law continues, even
after a marriage has ended scripturally. Jesus does allow one to put away or
divorce his fornicating spouse, releasing him from being bound to that person
till death, and freeing him to marry another (Matt. 19:9). But even after the
divorce, the one put away is restricted or bound by law by not being free to
marry another, for Jesus adds, “...and he that marrieth her when she is
put away committeth adultery” (Matt. 19:9b; cf. Matt. 5:32; Mk. 10:11;
Lk. 16:18). The reason that the new sexual relationship in marriage would be
adultery for the one put away for fornication is not because the first marriage
has not ended scripturally, for it has, but because the one put away is still
under the restriction of law, and is not loosed to marry another. Seeing we are
bound by law even after the marriage has ended, we can understand that one can
be “loosed” from the restrictions of law and be free to remarry,
while the one put away for fornication is still “bound” to his
mate, in the sense he is not “loosed” to marry another while the
one to whom he is bound is still alive.
Failing to see the scriptural distinction between being bound and married, some
have tried to justify the guilty fornicator’s remarriage by appealing to 1
Corinthians 7:27-28: “Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed.
Art thou loosed from wife? seek not a wife. But shouldest thou marry, thou hast
not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned.” Hasn’t the
marriage ended, and hasn’t one been loosed from his wife when she put him away
for fornication? Yes, the marriage has ended, but the wife’s action in ending
the marriage does not determine if one is loosed or bound. Remember, we are
bound “by law” to our mates, and that law continues to bind or restrict one or
more of the spouses even when they are no longer married to one another.
In 1 Corinthians 7:25-40, Paul is discussing marriage in the context of virgins
and widows. Even though Paul advises against people entering into marriage
during trying times for the Christian (1 Cor. 7:26), he makes it very plain that
if the virgin and widow enter into marriage they have not sinned.
Paul says if you are “loosed from a wife, seek not a wife.” Those
“loosed” would include the male who has never been married, and a
widower. Thayer, in his Greek-English Lexicon comments about the term “luo”
(loosed), as, “spoken of a single man, whether he has already had a wife, or
has not yet been married, 1 Cor. 7:27” (p. 384). Certainly the context would
allow for the man who has never married, because the virgin is referred to as
“she,” and the one who would be talked about just preceding her would
quite naturally be the “male” counterpart of a virgin, or a man who has never
married and therefore is “loosed from a wife.” Also, in verse 39,
the widow is referred to: “A wife is bound as for so long time as her
husband liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom
she will; only in the Lord.” So, certainly the male counterpart, the
widower, would be loosed from a wife by law, and therefore free to remarry. But
where in this context do you find the person who has been put away or divorced?
Since the binding and loosing is done by God, and communicated to us through His
law, where in God’s law does God loose the put away person to marry another?
Remember, only the person who is loosed according to God’s law can marry.
Nowhere does God free the put away fornicator to marry another while the one he
or she is bound to by law still lives.
Certainly, Paul does not speak of the guilty fornicator in 1 Corinthians 7:15
when he writes, “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.” But someone might say that the person here is divorced, and
because he or she is “not under bondage” then the divorced person
is free from the restrictions of the law in marriage, and can therefore remarry.
It is apparent here that the unbeliever no longer wants to be married to the
believer, because the believer has begun to serve the Lord. In order that peace
be accomplished, the believer is commanded to let the unbeliever go. You were
never to become enslaved to man by giving in to his demands, which involve
compromising the faith, but you must remain a bondservant of God. In order to
ease the Christian’s mind who quite naturally would be working to save a mate's
soul, Paul writes, “for how knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save
thy husband, or how knowest thou, O husband, whether thou shalt save they wife?”
(1 Cor. 7:16).
The word translated “under bondage” is from the root word, “DOULOO”
and is found in 1 Corinthians 7 and elsewhere in the New Testament
characterizing one who is a bondservant or slave. God said, in referring to
Egypt who had enslaved Israel, “And the nation to which they shall be in
bondage will I judge...” (Acts 7:6). In Corinthians 7:23, the root word
“DOULOS” is used where Paul concludes, “Ye were bought with a
price; become not bondservants of men.” Yes, there is the concept of
being restricted in the word bondage, but the term is consistently used in
scripture to convey the concept of being enslaved to something or someone like
Egypt, or the Lord, or as verse 15 teaches, not “under bondage” to
Two words may have similar root meanings, but when they are used consistently in
conveying distinguishing thoughts, that distinction must be acknowledged. Paul,
when conveying the thought of being bound by, restricted by or obligated to
God's law regarding marriage, he uses the root word “DEO” (Rom. 7:2; 1
Cor. 7:27, 39). When he conveys the thought of being in the state of bondage,
enslavement, or servitude, he uses the root term for bondservant–“DOULOS”
(1 Cor. 7:15, 23). The believer is reminded in verse 15, that he or she has
never in the past, nor now been in a state of enslavement to the unbeliever in
marriage, but must be a bondservant of Christ. The verse does not teach that God
has loosed the believer or the unbeliever from the restrictions of law that
binds him or her to a mate as long as that person lives (Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7:27,
By keeping in mind the distinction between being “married” and being
“bound” by law, we can avoid the confusing terminology sometimes used, such
as “married in the eyes of God” or “married in the eyes of man, but
not in the eyes of God.” People begin to speak of a “real” marriage
in contrast to just a “legal” marriage. If God approves, it is real.
Otherwise one is not really married, but only married in the eyes of men. The
same confusion is seen when people talk about divorce. Divorce is only real if
it is approved of God, otherwise the two are not really divorced, but only
divorced in the eyes of men. Such confusion allows for the false teacher to
pervert God's clear message regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage, and
loosen the restrictions of law where God has not so allowed.
By keeping “marriage” and being “bound” by law
distinctive in our minds, we can see that two people can be bound and
scripturally married to one another (Matt. 19:5-6; Rom. 7:2). One can be
unmarried, but bound (1 Cor. 7:10-11). One mate can be unmarried but bound,
while the other mate is free to remarry (Matt. 19:9). And, One mate can be bound
to his first mate, while unscripturally married to another (Mk. 6:17-18; Rom.