DISCLAIMER!!!: THE FOLLOWING POST IS NOT SOMETHING I AM CONTENDING FOR HERE, JUST POSTING IT FOR CONVERSATION. PLEASE COMMENT ON THE MERITS OF THE ARGUMENT. I WANT PEOPLE TO DISAGREE WITH IT!
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
There has been much discussion about what Paul means by, “the unbelieving husband is SANCTIFIED BY the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband.” A number of different views have been forwarded as possibilities. Inherent to each interpretation are necessary implications. The practical implications of a given interpretation must be considered while deciding which position is true.
1 Corinthians 7:12 KJV
But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
One thing that I would like to clarify before engaging this text is the particular type of marriage that is being discussed here. The kind of marriage that is being discussed is one where a husband or wife is converted and the spouse remains unconverted. Paul is not addressing in this text, though it MAY apply, one who is already a saint in the Corinthian church and becomes “unequally yoked together” with an unbeliever.
“If either husband or wife is converted, and the other is not, they must not on this account forsake the unbelieving helpmeet, provided he or she is pleased to remain.”
“This is a new problem, the result of work among the Gentiles…Paul has to deal with mixed marriages as missionaries do today in heathen lands...The Christian husband married his wife when he himself was an unbeliever.”
“He has been speaking to the unmarried (1Co_7:8) and to married parties, both of whom were Christians (1Co_7:10). By the rest he means married couples, one of which remained a heathen.”
“A Christian man, have a wife that believeth not, i.e. who is a heathen, not yet converted to the Christian faith, and she be pleased to dwell with him, notwithstanding his turning Christian since their marriage, let him not put her away because she still continues in her heathen superstition.”
“that is, if any man who is now a brother, one called by the grace of God, and is in church fellowship, has a wife to whom he was married whilst in a state of unregeneracy and infidelity; who is as she was when he married her, entirely destitute of faith in Christ; not one that is weak in the faith, or only makes an outward profession, but that has no faith at all in Christ, nor in his Gospel, not so much as an historical one; who disbelieves, denies, and rejects, the truths of the Gospel:”
“This might move a scruple in many minds, whether converts to Christianity were not bound to put away or desert their mates, continuing infidels.”
Keep this idea in mind as we continue to study through this text. If one concedes that this interpretation is true, it changes and greatly impacts the way the text is viewed.
What is Sanctification?
The purpose of this blog is to set forth one of the interpretations as a possibility and briefly explore its practical implications. What does “sanctified” refer to? The various views are laid out by Albert Barnes:
“But the expression cannot mean here: (1) That the unbelieving husband would become holy, or be a Christian, “by the mere fact” of a connection “with” a Christian, for this would be to do violence to the words, and would be contrary to facts everywhere; nor, (2) That the unbelieving husband had been sanctified by the Christian wife (Whitby), for this would not be true in all cases; nor, (3) That the unbelieving husband would gradually become more favorably inclined to Christianity, by observing its effects on the wife (according to Semler); for, though this might be true, yet the apostle was speaking of something then, and which rendered their children at that time holy; nor, (4) That the unbelieving husband might more easily be sanctified, or become a Christian, by being connected with a Christian wife (according to Rosenmuller and Schleusner), because he is speaking of something in the connection which made the children holy; and because the word ἁγιάζω hagiazō is not used in this sense elsewhere. But it is a good rule of interpretation, that the words which are used in any place are to be limited in their signification by the connection; and all that we are required to understand here is, that the unbelieving husband was sanctified “in regard to the subject under discussion;” that is, in regard to the question whether it was proper for them to live together, or whether they should be separated or not. And the sense may be, “They are by the marriage tie one flesh. They are indissolubly united by the ordinance of God. As they are one by his appointment, as they have received his sanction to the marriage union, and as one of them is holy, so the other is to be regarded as sanctified, or made so holy by the divine sanction to the union, that it is proper for them to live together in the marriage relation.””
For the reasons listed above Albert Barnes argues that sanctification in this text refers to the sanctification of the marriage bond; the right for this believer and unbeliever to be married. Paul cannot be arguing for personal sanctification in the salvific sense. It appears to me the only possibility is sanctification of the marriage bond.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown says:
“It is the fact of the husband being a “brother,” that is, a Christian, though the wife is not so, that sanctifies or hallows the union.”
JFB also agrees that sanctification refers to the marriage union and not to the individual person of the unbelieving spouse.
It is impossible to read this text without knowing that Paul has in mind Ezra 10:1-3 and the command to put away strange wives. The wives were to be put away solely on the basis that they were heathen. It is important to note that these marriages between Jew and heathen were treated differently than marriages between Jew and Jew. God had command his people not to marry those from other nations (Exedous 34:12-17); therefore the rules of marriage did not apply.
Paul corrects the idea in the church at Corinth that one can put away a spouse solely because they are pagan; however, he too gives a different rule for marriage with two believers than he does marriages where one is a believer and the other is an unbeliever.
Paul says to the married (equally yoked marriages), “let not the wife depart from her husband, but and if she depart let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).” Then Paul says, “but to the rest…if any brother hath a wife that believeth not (1 Corinthians 7:12),” he shifts from equally yoked marriages to unequally yoked marriages. To the equally yoked marriages in verses 10 and 11 his instructions are, “let them remain unmarried, or be reconciled.” When addressing the unequally yokes marriages, and the unbeliever deserting the believer, instead of saying, “remain unmarried or be reconciled,” he says, “a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases.”
Why the different instructions if God views both marriages equally? Because even though God sanctified the marriage because of the believer, he still views it differently than He does when two believers are married. Why? What is the difference? Why the different rules?
Sanctified, but How?
(1 Corinthians 7:14)
We have clearly demonstrated that there is some sort of difference in God’s eyes between equally yoked and unequally yoked marriages. I suggest to you that the difference is faith. How did sanctification come to the mixed marriage union in 1 Corinthians 7:14? According to the text, sanctification comes “by the believing.”
The unbeliever is “sanctified by” the believer. What does it mean when the Bible uses the phrase “sanctified by?” In every case, whatever the bible says someone or something is sanctified by, it cannot be sanctified BEFORE or WITHOUT it. “Sanctified by” describes the means through which the sanctification occurs. Let’s Illustrate.
Acts 26:18 KJV To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Could they have been sanctified BEFORE or WITOUT faith? No!
Romans 15:16 KJV That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
Could the Gentiles have been sanctified BEFORE or WITHOUT the Holy Ghost? No!
1 Corinthians 6:11 KJV And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
Can one be sanctified BEFORE or WITHOUT the name of Jesus and the Spirit of our God? No!
1 Timothy 4:5 KJV For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
Could this food have been sanctified BEFORE or WITHOUT the Word and prayer? No!
Jude 1:1 KJV Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:
Can sanctification occur BEFORE or WITHOUT God the Father? No!
Now my friends, apply the same principle to 1 Corinthians 7:14. The marriage of unbelievers cannot be sanctified BEFORE or WITHOUT a believer, because the believer is the means by which the union is sanctified. Marriage without a believer is not sanctified!
Before you insist too heavily that all heterosexual, first marriages are inherently sanctified by God, and are therefore subject to the same rules of marriage, let me remind you of Ezra 10 where marriages were to be put away entirely and solely because an unbeliever/pagan was involved. Ezra 10 and 1 Corinthians 7 proves that God judges marriages that include unbelievers differently and that they have a different set of parameters.
Else Were Your Children Unclean
(1 Corinthians 7:14)
I am not going to spend a lot of time here, but Paul further illustrates my previous point by saying, “else were your children unclean, but now are they holy.” “Unclean,” is set in the same context with and in contrast to “sanctified.” Whatever sanctified means, unclean means the opposite. “Sanctified” refers to the marriage union being sanctified in the ceremonial sense, and so “unclean” and “holy” must refer to the ceremonial condition of the children depending on whether the marriage is sanctified or not.
If the marriage is sanctified, then the children are holy; however, if the marriage is not sanctified, then the children are considered unclean (illegitimate). Else, meaning if the union is not sanctified by having a believer in it, the children are illegitimate. The union is sanctified, not because they are legally married. The union is not “ sanctified by the law,” but the union is “sanctified by the believing.” This means that children from a marriage union that is not sanctified by having at least one believer in it are considered unclean.
So, the implication and practical application is that since marriage unions are not sanctified without one of the spouses being a believer, whenever someone comes to Christ and they are divorced for whatever reason they can remarry in the church. A divorced person who becomes a Christian can remarry in the Church regardless of the reason for the divorce, since his faithless marriage was never sanctified.
 Peoples New Testament, E-Sword Version 9.5.1, Retrieved 09.28.10
 Roberson’s Word Pictures, E-Sword Version 9.5.1, Retrieved 09.28.10
 Vincent’s Word Studies, E-Sword Version 9.5.1, Retrieved 09.28.10
 Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, E-Sword Version 9.5.1, Retrieved 09.28.10
 John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, E-Sword Version 9.5.1, Retrieved 09.28.10
 Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, E-Sword Version 9.5.1, Retrieved 09.28.10
 Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, E-Sword Version 9.5.1, Retrieved 09.28.10
 Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, E-Sword Version 9.5.1, Retrieved 09.28.10