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The Sanctified Unbeliever

IStock_000010972095XSmall 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. — 1Corinthians 7:14

This Scripture came up in my Bible study this week. A dear friend at my table said something about it that sparked my investigation mode. There’s a precious meaning to this verse that holds such encouragement for us regarding our unbelieving spouses. Hang in there with me, I think you’ll really like this.

My exploration of this verse first took me to find out what exactly “sanctified” meant in each use in this verse. The Greek word used in both places is hagiazo, which means to make holy, consecrate. Next, I went to my Bible commentary and found this wonderful explanation of what sanctified means in this context:  

“The word 'sanctified' does not refer to moral purity—Paul is certainly not teaching that the unbelieving partner is made morally pure through a believing spouse. What the word emphasizes is a relationship to God, a claim of God on the person and family to be set apart for Him. The tense of the verb stresses that the unbeliever who is in a Christian family has already become and continues to be a part of a family unit upon which God has His claim and which He will use for his service.” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Abridged Edition)

The commentary goes on to even reference our children as being covered much like the children of the Israelites were included in God’s covenant with them. Jesus also makes reference to this in Acts 2:38-39 when He says salvation is a promise not just for us but for our children and “for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

This makes me wonder two things:

1. God made a covenant with the Israelites, which covered their children and each generation after. God also sees marriage as a covenant, without qualification. Does this mean we can take our marriage as a covenant with our spouse as also a “covering” for our unbelieving spouse? Could this be what Paul means when he says our unbelieving spouse is also sanctified through us, the believing spouse? I believe it does.

2. If the point above is true, this makes our marriages uniquely different from a marriage of two unbelievers. I kind of see us as that middle place between a non-Christian marriage where neither partner is a believer and a Christian marriage. Something to think about. We have an edge. If what the commentary says is true, then our unbelieving spouses have been set apart by God.

Which then brings me to this conclusion: Our place in our marriage is not just about what we pray, what we do, or what we think. It’s also about who we are. As children of God, born into the family of God through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, our very presence protects our spouses. Our faith acts like an umbrella over our family. God lays claim not only to us but to our unbelieving spouse as well.

No, that doesn’t mean they are saved by association but it does mean God has a special interest in our marriage and the salvation of our spouse that goes beyond the norm. There’s a covenant involved and we know how God feels about covenants.

So, my dear friends, we can commit our marriages into God’s hands with the full confidence that He’s laid claim to both you and your spouse. He is smack dab in the middle working. On those days that you wonder and doubt, remember this commitment and profess God’s truth—you belong to Him and through you, God claims your spouse too.

Praying and believing,

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