In 1 Cor 7:14, it is implied that an unbelieving spouse, of a believer, may also be made holy in God's eyes but only if that spouse comes around to the believer's stance with God. It is also implied that the children of such an alliance can be sanctified merely by being a by-product of such a marriage.

If the end of days, or should I say the end of this present system, was to end tomorrow and let's say the wife of the believer has not yet come around, then wouldn't the offspring of the marriage be left with only the father and no longer have a mother?

Also, what about 2 Cor 6:14 "Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers..."

1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

6 Answers 6


First of all, children are not by-product of a marriage, they are blessings from God, just like we are not by-products of God's creation :)

Answering your question regarding 1 Cor 7:14

Now to answer your question, let's look at the context of the verse.

Paul has discussed marriage related topics with 2 categories of people:

  1. Believers who were not married at that time (1 Cor 7:8-9), quite self-explanatory:

8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (NKJV)

  1. Believers who were already married (1 Cor 7:10-11):

10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. (NKJV)

Note the phrase I command, yet not I but the Lord, which clearly states that this is a command from the Lord (Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.)

Now the Corinthians would naturally have questions like: what if my spouse is an unbeliever? And that's what Paul tried to address in the later verses:

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. (NKJV)

Note the phrase I, not the Lord, say, which states that this is from Paul and it's not a commandment directly from the Lord. Now let me make it absolutely clear, I do NOT agree that any believer should divorce the unbeliever spouse, because it violates what the Lord has commanded.

In this letter's context, Paul is trying to explain as clearly as possible why believers should not divorce their unbeliever spouses who are willing to stay in the marriage. He could have simply said something like: it's what the Lord has commanded, just do it, whether you like it or not is irrelevant.

But instead he's sharing a beautiful message:

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. (NKJV)

The Greek word ἡγίασται (sanctified) is used with perfect tense, which means the unbeliever spouses are already declared clean because they stay in the marriage with a believer spouse.

Does this means ultimate salvation for the unbeliever spouse? The scripture clearly teaches that to be saved you need to believe in Jesus, repent, get baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and not abandon your faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is between God and each individual, you can NOT be saved as an unbeliever just because you have a believer family member.

Also, it feels strange if Paul talked about marriage in the previous verses and following verses, and suddenly talked about the ultimate salvation of the unbeliever spouses in the middle.

My personal opinion here:

So what does Paul mean here? Given the whole chapter is mostly about single life / married life, so in this context it is very likely that, instead of discussing the salvation of the unbeliever spouse, it's much more an encouraging message to the believer spouse that the marriage is a valid marriage in the eyes of God and should be respected. It is as valid as a marriage between two believers, and the children too are acknowledged by God (again, does not necessarily mean salvation).

Naturally the Corinthians would then wonder: what if the unbeliever spouse chose to leave me? Paul basically said, don't worry about it, leave it with God and have peace (note Paul's NOT saying the unbelievers won't be saved)

15 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. (NKJV)

Why is that? Because God has an individualised plan for everyone, you don't have the ability or duty to save the leaving unbeliever spouse (and I personally add here - "or your children"), salvation is the work of God with each individual.

Here's the explanation (and Paul off-tracked a bit to the whole church before coming back to the marriage topics and talk about virgins):

16 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? 17 But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches. (NKJV)

Answering your question regarding 2 Cor 6:14

Now with regards to 2 Cor 6:14, it's under a completely different context, Paul wasn't talking about marriage here. He was saying that we don't do what unbelievers do because we are the subject of the New Covenant and we are temples of God, God is dwelling in us (verse 16) so we should obey God's commandments under the New Covenant and not act like the not-yet believers who entirely live according to the desire of the flesh.

In the context of marriage with an unbeliever - this means we don't compromise our faith and our deeds. We inevitably would interact with unbelievers but that would not change our identity as Christians.

20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2:20-21 NKJV)

On the contrarily, we need to clearly show our identity to the unbelievers around us by living a live led by the Spirit. In John 13:33-35 Jesus gave his new commandment:

33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:33-35 NKJV)

Context is important

An important principle to read the scripture is to read within the context, you can easily find passages from different parts of the scripture and come up with incorrect assumptions. Example:

5 ...Then he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:5 NIV)

37 ...“Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37 NIV)

Now jokes aside, I would really endorse reading a whole chapter or even a few chapters in some cases to grasp what the author of the book / letter intended to communicate.

Hope that answers your question and God bless you! I pray that the Holy Spirit keeps giving us the right understanding at the right time. In Jesus Name, Amen!


Can the spouse of a believer be sanctified by simply being married to the believer?

Answer: Unfortunately, No.

Each of us is uniquely accountable to God and our salvation is not transferrable. I have seen several spouses of saints that do not obey God at all. How could they be saved through such negligence?

1 Corinthians 7:14, 15: For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 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?

The verb used in verse 14, "sanctified," cannot mean holy in Christ because holiness cannot be assigned to unbelievers - even in marriage. The apostle may be using "sanctified" in a formal, ceremonial sense. Paul is merely suggesting that O/T principles of uncleanness are no longer in effect. The marriage is "clean" and lawful; protection by God is extended to the household through the believer, and in that sense, the family is at least in close contact with someone who is holy in Christ.

Further, the children of such a relationship are considered holy, as all young children are before the age of accountability (13 or so). Verse 15 simply suggests that one holy spouse may have just enough influence on their partner to hopefully bring them to God.

  • Another good answer. Didn't necessarily like it though (see my comment to Levan). Upvoted + 1, nevertheless. Commented May 18, 2021 at 21:23

Let me quote 1 Cor 7:14 -

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

First, note that Paul is discussing the situation where a believer is married to an unbelieving spouse - this was common if one partner converted to Christianity and the other did not.

Further, note that Paul is specifically giving advice about an unbelieving spouse - that is, NOT a spouse that believes or is necessarily even sympathetic to the other, but one who is unbelieving.

Now to the heart of the problem. Paul is assuring Christian members that being married to an unbeliever does not defile them. Further, this extends to the children as well.

Ellicott says this:

(14) The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife.—Any scruple which a Christian might have felt as to whether matrimonial union with an unbeliever would be defiling is here removed, and the purity of the former teaching justified. In contrast to that other union in which the connection is defiling (1 Corinthians 6:16), the purity of the believing partner in this union, being a lawful one, as it were, entirely overweighs the impurity of the unbeliever, it being not a moral, but a kind of ceremonial impurity. The children of such marriages were considered to be Christian children; and the fruit being holy, so must we regard as holy the tree from which it springs. It must be remembered that the “sanctification” and “holiness” here spoken of is not that inward sanctification which springs from the action of the Holy Spirit in the individual heart, but that consecration which arises from being in the body of Christ, which is the Christian Church (Romans 9:16.)

Barnes is more pointed:

For the unbelieving husband - The husband that is not a Christian; who still remains a pagan, or an impenitent man. The apostle here states reasons why a separation should not take place when there was a difference of religion between the husband and the wife. The first is, that the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife. And the object of this statement seems to be, to meet an objection which might exist in the mind, and which might, perhaps, be urged by some. "Shall I not be polluted by such a connection? Shall I not be defiled, in the eye of God, by living in a close union with a pagan, a sinner, an enemy of God, and an opposer of the gospel?" This objection was natural, and is, doubtless, often felt. To this the apostle replies, "No; the contrary may he true. The connection produces a species of sanctification, or diffuses a kind of holiness over the unbelieving party by the believing party, so far as to render their children holy, and therefore it is improper to seek for a separation."

Benson is even more terse:

1 Corinthians 7:14. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife — That is, so far that their matrimonial converse is as lawful, holy, and honourable, as if they were both of the same faith: and in many instances the unbeliever, whether husband or wife, hath been converted to God by the instrumentality of the believing partner.

  • Great answer as usual. Interesting 'bible commentaries' for sure. I'll go with Ellicott !! Commented May 18, 2021 at 21:17

You state that

(...) it is implied that an unbelieving spouse, of a believer, may also be made holy in God's eyes but only if that spouse comes around to the believer's stance with God. It is also implied that the children of such an alliance can be sanctified merely by being a bi product of such a marriage.

While that could be true from your perspective, you're choosing to see something in the Bible which isn't necessarily agreed by all. In fact, according to Barnes' Notes on the Bible

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.

  • I think you were 1st to answer and that alone is worth an upvote in my book. Barnes notes aside, the answer is lacking a little for me. Commented May 18, 2021 at 21:00
  • @OldeEnglish yeaa I feel ya... Could've gone in more detail but it'd then take me the hour I didn't have... Glad you got that sorted out though! Commented May 18, 2021 at 21:51

If even a Church-goer, who stands on a weekly basis in the intense presence of Christ in His specially assigned place of prayer, will not be sanctified by virtue of church-going itself, unless he also tries to work in his inner life according to Christ's commandments, then how on earth can a husband living with a Christian wife, even if she is a saint, be sanctified? For no wife can be as holy as the Christ, and if even Christ, being God, utterly fails to sanctify us, unless we will to, then how can a wife, being a human can sanctify us?

What a wondrous argument I have made! - and still somebody down-voted me :0)

  • Just getting round to responding to all these answers and I think you were second to respond. Your point, although short, is well taken and on the face of it, makes all the sense in 'this' world. I, myself, just feel and hope that the believing 'Patriarch' of the family (which would be me) may hold a little more sway, particularly as my wife, even though well meaning towards others, is more of an agnostic than anything else. Of my 2 'grown up' children, 1 is a believer, but the other, also well meaning, is an 'anthropologist' and the mother of our 2 grand children (4 & 2 yrs). Upvoted +1. Commented May 18, 2021 at 20:49
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    @OldeEnglish :0) Thanks! Indeed, I believe that a good Christian creates a certain air of sanctity around himself/herself, which by all means will shed a good influence on all people communicating with such a person. There is always a chance that one who sees a good conduct and demeanor of a Christian will convert to the latter's faith. That's why Paul asks rhetorically, as a possibility: "Who knows, perhaps you will save your non0believing spouse!" - thus, there is not a necessity, but a suspense, conversion depending on the mystery of free will. Commented May 18, 2021 at 21:16
  • Ahh, that ever so important human gift of 'free will', whether used/incorporated wisely or not. Thank you for that Levan. I'm sorry that your country will not be being represented next month, in the European Football Championships. Always love your 'football/sports analogies. Commented May 18, 2021 at 21:45

No. The Bible is clear that one is accountable for his own actions; you cannot get saved on behalf of someone else (Deuteronomy 24:16). Salvation is a personal decision, not something your parents can make for you.

When 1st Corinthians 7 talks about being sanctified through one's spouse, it talks about the fact that some people have indeed gotten saved after being married to believers for awhile. Some people came to know the Lord through their saved spouses; their saved spouses served as witnesses for the Lord for many months/years before they got saved.

The Bible is clear in multiple passages that you must believe in order to be saved. John 3:16-20 is clear that those who do not believe are already facing God's wrath; it does not make exceptions to those who are married to believing spouses.

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