1 Corinthians7:14

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For the unbelieving husband is made holy by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy by the husband; otherwise your children are unclean; but now they are holy.


For a home made up of a believing wife and an unbelieving husband is made holy by the believing wife, and a home made up of a believing husband and an unbelieving wife is made holy by the believing husband. If this were not the case, the children produced by this union would be unclean from the start, but instead they are considered clean and holy from the start.

How Is the Unbelieving Spouse Sanctified by the Believing Spouse?

They are still following God’s design for sex and marriage.  The unbelieving spouse (though an unbeliever) is still honoring God and His design.


God does not punish children for having parents that do not agree regarding following Jesus.

The Old Testament concept that everything is either clean and holy, common and clean, or common and unclean carried over to the New Testament. We do not need to follow all the regulations of the Law given through Moses, but we do need to follow the principles taught by those regulations. Everyone is born into the world in a condition of common and clean, thus allowing them a fair start at life. Their choices and actions make them clean and holy, or common and unclean (From Rich Oka’s blogsite, https://messianic-revolution.com/l11-2-four-truths-you-should-have-been-taught-when-you-were-born-again-but-werent/).

Or we can consider that those involved in a covenant relationship with God were considered holy. Obviously it is best if both spouses are living according to the conditions of God’s covenant, but apparently, if only one of them is doing so, the children can still be considered under that covenant until they are old enough to make their own decisions on the matter.

Marriage was considered a holy state, and the marriage bed was considered holy unless something contaminated was brought into it (such as pornography, adultery, etc).

But the Old Testament Law also taught that one should not mix two things that are different. That is another spiritual principle that carries over to the New Testament. If you are a follower of Jesus, do not seek to marry someone who is not a follower of Jesus.

As Paul saw a situation developing in which a household could be divided with one parent following Jesus and the other parent not following Jesus, he apparently had some questions. My guess is that this came to his mind in part because of his own situation. Scholars think that Paul probably had a wife because he was climbing the ranks of the respected leaders of his day, all of whom were married. It is thought that when Paul gave his life to Jesus and experienced a radical life change, his wife left him and went back to live with her father. But Paul knew that there would be cases in which a married person would become a believer after getting married, and the unbelieving spouse would not leave, and he wondered what that meant for the children. Would they start life with a disadvantage spiritually (common and unclean)?

God must have given Paul an answer to this question in some direct way, an answer which Paul shared at this point with the Corinthians. The answer was that the children are not disadvantaged, in fact God grants them a special status. Instead of starting out as common and clean, they will start out as clean and holy. The things a spouse goes through when not married to another believer will be noticed by the children and will be a powerful witness to the work of God in a human life. God chooses to look at the fact that one spouse is going above and beyond what is normal in order to live for Him; He does not focus on the fact that the other spouse does not follow Him at all. In this way, the home and the resulting children are not disadvantaged by a situation out of their control.

Fredric Louis Godet reminds us that “whatever touches the altar will be holy” (Ex 29:37). His point is that if a believing parent offers a child to God in prayer, that child is considered holy by God (Godet’s commentary on 1 Corinthians, p. 334).

I am convinced that this passage has nothing to do with infant baptism, or else Paul would have made that clear. Baptism of infants is not specifically mentioned anywhere in the Bible, so Paul would not have been able to hint at something that had never been mentioned, he would have had to say it clearly, but he did not do so. We must remember that Paul thought like a Jew, and infant baptism was not a part of Jewish thinking.

SUMMARY: There are three truths from the Old Testament Law that God could have shown Paul which would override the principle of not mixing things that are vastly different. These are that:

  1. God gives children of a marriage in which only one parent is a believer in Jesus a special status by being considered clean and holy, not just common and clean.
  2. Everyone who is in a covenant relationship with God is holy.
  3. If a parent offers a child to God in prayer, that child is considered holy until his own actions change that status.