Sanctification Influence in a Marriage
Apostolic Teaching on Mixed Marriages between a Christian and an Unbeliever
“But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Cor. 7:12-16)
12.But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.
13. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.
During our Lord’s earthly ministry there were no mixed marriages between Christians and unbelievers therefore the apostle Paul could not quote from Him. According to the apostle Paul’s personal understanding mixed marriages are permissible if both spouses are willing to live with one another.
14. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
The Meaning of Sanctification in a Christian Marriage
The word “sanctified” is the same root word (Greek hagiazo agiazw) that is translated "holy," "set apart," or "perfecting holiness." The same word is also translated "holy" at the end of verse 14 in reference to “your children.” This word sanctify is first used in the Old Testament of the utensils that were set apart for use in the temple offerings. These utensils were holy and set apart for this service alone. Therefore, to sanctify means to set something apart or to set someone apart for God’s purposes. Let us consider five phases of the Christian’s sanctification:
(1) Christians are sanctified when they are drawn to Christ. God set them apart and sanctified them by His Spirit as He draws them to Jesus Christ. In John 6:44 Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him."
(2) At the point of salvation Scripture declares that you "were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). Therefore, after you received Jesus Christ as your Savior and are baptized into Him you were then sanctified by God, washed from your sins, and placed in His kingdom (Col. 1:13).
(3) Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed to the Father: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (Jn. 17:17) “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” (Eph. 5:25-26) As you study the word of God (Holy Bible) you are constantly being sanctified.
(4) You are also sanctified as you walk with Christ and grow in personal holiness. This transformation of your life occurs as He sets you apart by conforming you into the image of the Son. Paul called this work,"perfecting holiness" (2 Cor. 7:1). This sanctifying work occurs as you trust and apply God’s promises in your personal life.
(5) Finally, God’s sanctifying work is completed at the moment you meet Jesus Christ face to face when He returns for His own. Paul referred to this completed work when he said, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ"(1 Thess. 5:23).
Now that you understand the purpose of sanctification, let’s tie it in with our subject of a believing spouse living with an unbeliever. When a Christian is living with a non-Christian, the unbeliever is being set apart and worked on by the Holy Spirit as a direct result of the believer’s presence in the home. Remember, you are a light in the darkness of your mate’s life (Matt. 5:14-16). Since your mate is willing to dwell with you, he or she will naturally have a greater potential for being saved than if you were not present in the home. Paul implies this with his question: "For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife" (1 Cor. 7:16)?
The Biblical Text does not teach that Infants of Mixed Marriages do not need Water Baptism
Some have used 1 Corinthians 7:14 as an argument for their objection to infant baptism. They interpret this verse as saying that as long as there is one Christian parent the children are considered as “holy” and if they are “holy” then they do not need to be baptized. This is not only gross misinterpretation of the Scriptures but also highly dangerous because it is completely taken out of context (2 Pet. 3:15-16). What the apostle Paul wrote has nothing to do with whether or not children should be baptized.
What Paul wrote is to give the believer a further reason why he or she should preserve the marriage with an unbeliever because it is for the children’s sake. According to 1 Corinthians 7:14, children living with at least one Christian parent are holy rather than unclean. This word “unclean” is the same word translated "common" many places in the New Testament. Remember Peter said to Jesus, "I have never eaten anything common or unclean" (Acts 10:14). If your children are “unclean” it simply means that they are not in a sanctified position and God cannot draw them to Jesus Christ. This is the same principle that was referred to the above concerning your sanctifying influence over your unbelieving wife or husband. Therefore, since your presence has this sanctifying influence upon your spouse and your children, if your mate is willing it is best to stay in your marriage.
People whose marriages are on the rocks have said many times, "I don’t want to stay with my unbelieving spouse just for the children." But, in light of this instruction, I think it’s an excellent reason! God is again trying to motivate you to stay and work out the problems. Do you realize that if you leave your spouse your children could end up living with a non-Christian parent or step-parent, which would put them in an unsanctified position? The believing parent and their children face tremendous struggles with the evil influence of an ungodly parent or step-parent. When the children come home from visiting the unsaved parent, the Christian spouse has to undo all the damage done over the weekend or summer.
Therefore, remember that your presence in your home has great sanctification influence.