World English Bible translation
7:12But to the rest I--not the Lord--say, if any brother has an unbelieving wife, and she is content to live with him, let him not leave her. 7:13 The woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he is content to live with her, let her not leave her husband. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but now are they holy. 7:15 Yet if the unbeliever departs, let there be separation. The brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us in peace. 7:16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? 7:17 Only, as the Lord has distributed to each man, as God has called each, so let him walk. So I command in all the assemblies.
Today's lesson continues the discussion on marriage and sexual immorality. In the preceding section Paul discussed how those that are unmarried and widowed ought to live before the Lord. He discussed the bond that God creates between man and woman and how we should not set that bond aside. As believers, we are to preserve the bond of marriage and keep it holy.
Now Paul deals with the case of the believer whose spouse does not share their belief. In so doing, Paul lays down a very simple rule. But as he explains it, he writes something that has intriguing implications for those that study scripture.
Paul says to the believer who is married to an unbeliever that if the unbeliever is willing to continue to live with them, they are to remain married. If the unbeliever is willing to stay in a union and will accommodate the faith of the believer, then that is a good thing.
Paul is not seeking to justify his argument here, but he does give two interesting reasons why the believer should stay. The first reason that he gives is for the sake of their children. Paul believed and taught that the children of believers were holy. Children of unbelievers were "unclean," or that is, they were outside of the covenant of Christ. But children raised in a household where at least one of the spouses was a believer were considered "holy."
In the same way, Paul writes that the unbelieving spouse is "sanctified" by the believing spouse. In other words, they are made "holy." They are set apart from the rest of the world, set apart for God's use and work. That's what "holy" means.
But then Paul goes on to say that one of the reasons that the believing spouse should stay with an unbeliever is that it might be possible to "save" them. "For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?" By this it is easy to deduce that an unbeliever might be sanctified by their believing spouse and yet not be saved. Paul tells the believer to stay with them, they might be saved. Remaining with the believer does not automatically save them.
But in almost every other place in scripture, sanctification is described as a part of the ongoing work of God in the process of salvation. Believers are sanctified through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Only here, to my knowledge, does Paul hint at a time when a person might be sanctified and not saved.
This passage forces us to consider how our own faithfulness to God affects other people. A believer's faith can make their children holy in God's sight. A believer's faith can sanctify their unbelieving spouse. Faith is such a powerful thing that it spills over into the lives of everyone around us. Our faith not only affects our own lives, but the lives of those around us as well.
How are the people in your life affected by your faith? Is your relationship with God such that those you love are sanctified by your life?
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