1 Corinthians 7:14
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.
Jump to: BarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGSBGillGrayGuzikHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
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."

Is sanctified - ἡγίασται hēgiastai. There has been a great variety of opinions in regard to the sense of this word. It does not comport with my design to state these opinions. The usual meaning of the word is, to make holy; to set apart to a sacred use; to consecrate, etc; see the note at John 17:17. 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." And in proof of this, Paul says if it were not so, if the connection was to he regarded as impure and abominable, then their children were to be esteemed as illegitimate and unclean. But now they were not so regarded, and could not so be; and hence, it followed that they might lawfully continue together. So Calvin, Beza, and Doddridge interpret the expression.

Else were your children unclean - (ἀκάθαρτα akatharta). Impure; the opposite of what is meant by holy. Here observe:

(1) That this is a reason why the parents, one of whom was a Christian and the other not, should not be separated; and,

(2) The reason is founded on the fact, that if they were separated, the offspring of such a union must be regarded as illegitimate, or unholy; and,

(3) It must be improper to separate in such a way, and for such a reason, because even they did not believe, and could not believe, that their children were defiled, and polluted, and subject to the shame and disgrace attending illegitimate children.

This passage has often been interpreted, and is often adduced to prove that children are "federally holy," and that they are entitled to the privilege of baptism on the ground of the faith of one of the parents. But against this interpretation there are insuperable objections:

(1) The phrase "federally holy" is unintelligible, and conveys no idea to the great mass of people. It occurs no where in the Scriptures, and what can be meant by it?

(2) it does not accord with the scope and design of the argument. There is not one word about baptism here; not one allusion to it; nor does the argument in the remotest degree hear upon it. The question was not whether children should be baptized, but it was whether there should be a separation between man and wife, where the one was a Christian and the other not. Paul states, that if such a separation should take place, it would imply that the marriage was improper; and of course the children must be regarded as unclean. But how would the supposition that they were federally holy, and the proper subjects of baptism, bear on this? Would it not be equally true that it was proper to baptize the children whether the parents were separated or not? Is it not a doctrine among Pedobaptists everywhere, that the children are entitled to baptism upon the faith of either of the parents, and that that doctrine is not affected by the question here agitated by Paul? Whether it was proper for them to live together or not, was it not equally true that the child of a believing parent was to be baptized? But,

(3) The supposition that this means that the children would be regarded as illegitimate if such a separation should take place, is one that accords with the whole scope and design of the argument. "When one party is a Christian and the other not shall there be a separation?" This was the question. "No," says Paul; if there is such a separation, it must be because the marriage is improper; because it would be wrong to live together in such circumstances. What would follow from this? Why, that all the children that have been born since the one party became a Christian, must be regarded as having been born while a connection existed that was improper, and unChristian, and unlawful, and of course they must be regarded as illegitimate. But, says he, you do not believe this yourselves. It follows, therefore, that the connection, even according to your own views, is proper.


The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife - Or rather, is to be reputed as sanctified on account of his wife; she being a Christian woman, and he, though a heathen, being by marriage one flesh with her: her sanctity, as far as it refers to outward things, may be considered as imputed to him so as to render their connection not unlawful. The case is the same when the wife is a heathen and the husband a Christian. The word sanctification here is to be applied much more to the Christian state than to any moral change in the persons; for ἁγιοι, saints, is a common term for Christians - those who were baptized into the faith of Christ; and as its corresponding term קדושים kedoshim signified all the Jews who were in the covenant of God by circumcision, the heathens in question were considered to be in this holy state by means of their connection with those who were by their Christian profession saints.

Else were your children unclean - If this kind of relative sanctification were not allowed, the children of these persons could not be received into the Christian Church, nor enjoy any rights, or privileges as Christians; but the Church of God never scrupled to admit such children as members, just as well as she did those who had sprung from parents both of whom were Christians.

The Jews considered a child as born out of holiness whose parents were not proselytes at the time of the birth, though afterwards they became proselytes. On the other hand, they considered the children of heathens born in holiness, provided the parents became proselytes before the birth. All the children of the heathens were reputed unclean by the Jews; and all their own children holy. - See Dr. Lightfoot. This shows clearly what the apostle's meaning is.

If we consider the apostle as speaking of the children of heathens, we shall get a remarkable comment on this passage from Tertullian, who, in his treatise De Carne Christi, chaps. 37, 39, gives us a melancholy account of the height to which superstition and idolatry had arrived in his time among the Romans. "A child," says he, "from its very conception, was dedicated to the idols and demons they worshipped. While pregnant, the mother had her body swathed round with bandages, prepared with idolatrous rites. The embryo they conceived to be under the inspection of the goddess Alemona, who nourished it in the womb. Nona and Decima took care that it should be born in the ninth or tenth month. Partula adjusted every thing relative to the labor; and Lucina ushered it into the light. During the week preceding the birth a table was spread for Juno; and on the last day certain persons were called together to mark the moment on which the Parcae, or Fates, had fixed its destiny. The first step the child set on the earth was consecrated to the goddess Statina; and, finally, some of the hair was cut off, or the whole head shaven, and the hair offered to some god or goddess through some public or private motive of devotion." He adds that "no child among the heathens was born in a state of purity; and it is not to be wondered at," says he, "that demons possess them from their youth, seeing they were thus early dedicated to their service." In reference to this, he thinks, St. Paul speaks in the verse before us: The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife - else were your children unclean; but now are they holy; i.e. "As the parents were converted to the Christian faith, the child comes into the world without these impure and unhallowed rites; and is from its infancy consecrated to the true God."

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife,.... That is, "by the believing wife"; as the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions read, and so it is read in some copies; and likewise in the next clause the same is read,

by the believing husband; this is a reason given by the apostle why they should live together. This cannot be understood of internal sanctification, which is never the case; an unbeliever cannot be sanctified by a believer in this sense, for such a sanctification is only by the Spirit of God; nor external sanctification, or an outward reformation, which though the unbelieving yoke fellow may sometimes be a means of, yet not always; and besides, the usefulness of one to another in such a relation, in a spiritual sense, urged as a reason for living together, in 1 Corinthians 7:16 nor merely of the holiness of marriage, as it is an institution of God, which is equally the same in unbelievers as believers, or between a believer and an unbeliever, as between two believers; but of the very act of marriage, which, in the language of the Jews, is expressed by being "sanctified"; instances almost without number might be given of the use of the word in this sense, out of the Misnic, Talmudic, and Rabbinic writings; take the following one instead of a thousand that might be produced (s).

"The man "sanctifies", or espouses a wife by himself, or by his messenger; the woman "is sanctified", or espoused by herself, or by her messenger. The man "sanctifies", or espouses his daughter, when she is a young woman, by himself or by his messenger; if anyone says to a woman, "be thou sanctified", or espoused to me by this date (the fruit of the palm tree,) "be thou sanctified", or espoused to me by this (any other thing); if there is anyone of these things the value of a farthing, "she is sanctified", or espoused, and if not she is not "sanctified", or "espoused"; if he says, by this, and by this, and by this, if there is the value of a farthing in them all, "she is sanctified", or espoused; but if not, she is not "sanctified", or espoused; if she eats one after another, she is not "sanctified", or espoused, unless there is one of them the value of a farthing;''

in which short passage, the word which is used to "sanctify", or be "sanctified", in the Hebrew language, is used to espouse, or be espoused no less than "ten" times. So the Jews (t) interpret the word "sanctified", in Job 1:5 he espoused to them wives; in the Misna, the oral law of the Jews, there is a whole treatise of "sanctifications" (u), or espousals; and in the Gemara or Talmud (w) is another, full of the disputes of the doctors on this subject. Maimonides has also written a treatise of women and wives (x), out of which might be produced almost innumerable instances in proof of the observation; and such as can read, and have leisure to read the said tracts, may satisfy themselves to their heart's content. Let it be further observed; that the preposition which is in most versions rendered "by", should be rendered "in" or "to" or "unto", as it is in the next verse, and in many other places; see Matthew 17:12 Colossians 1:23 if it be rendered in the former way, "in", it denotes the near union which by marriage the man and woman are brought into; if in the latter, it designs the object to which the man or woman is espoused, and the true sense and even the right rendering of the passage is this: "for the unbelieving husband is espoused to the wife, and the unbelieving wife is espoused to the husband"; they are duly, rightly, and legally espoused to each other; and therefore ought not, notwithstanding their different sentiments of religion, to separate from one another; otherwise, if this is not the case, if they are not truly married to one another, this consequence must necessarily follow; that the children born in such a state of cohabitation, where the marriage is not valid, must be spurious, and not legitimate, and which is the sense of the following words:

else were your children unclean, but now are they holy; that is, if the marriage contracted between them in their state of infidelity was not valid, and, since the conversion of one of them, can never be thought to be good; then the children begotten and born, either when both were infidels, or since one of them was converted, must be unlawfully begotten, be base born, and not a genuine legitimate offspring; and departure upon such a foot would be declaring to all the world that their children were illegitimate; which would have been a sad case indeed, and contains in it another reason why they ought to keep together; whereas, as the apostle has put it, the children are holy in the same sense as their parents are; that as they are sanctified, or lawfully espoused together, so the children born of them were in a civil and legal sense holy, that is, legitimate; wherefore to support the validity of their marriage, and for the credit of their children, it was absolutely necessary they should abide with one another. The learned Dr. Lightfoot says, that the words "unclean" and "holy" denote not children unlawfully begotten, and lawfully begotten; but Heathenism and Christianism; and thinks the apostle alludes to the distinction often made by the Jews, of the children of proselytes being born in "holiness", or out of it, that is, either before they became proselytes or after; but it should be observed, that though the word "holiness" is used for Judaism, yet not for Christianity; and besides, the marriages of Heathens were not looked upon as marriages by the Jews, and particularly such mixed ones as of a Jew and Gentile, they were not to be reckoned marriages; for so they say (y),

"he that espouses a Gentile woman, or a servant, , "they are not espousals"; but lo, he is after the espousals as he was before the espousals; and so a Gentile, or a servant, that espouses a daughter of Israel, , "those espousals are no espousals";''

nor do they allow children begotten of such persons to be legitimate. This learned writer himself owns such a tradition, and which he cites (z),

"that a son begotten in uncleanness is a son in all respects, and in general is reckoned as an Israelite, though he is a bastard, , "but a son begotten on a Gentile woman is not his son";''

all which are just the reverse of what the apostle is here observing; and who, it must be remarked, is speaking of the same sort of holiness of children as of parents, which cannot be understood of Christianity, because one of the parents in each is supposed to be an Heathen. The sense I have given of this passage, is agreeable to the mind of several interpreters, ancient and modern, as Jerom, Ambrose, Erasmus, Camerarius, Musculus, &c. which last writer makes this ingenuous confession; formerly, says he, I have abused this place against the Anabaptists, thinking the meaning was, that the children were holy for the parents' faith; which though true, the present place makes nothing for the purpose: and I hope, that, upon reading this, everyone that has abused it to such a purpose will make the like acknowledgment; I am sure they ought.

(s) Misn. Kiddushin, c. 2. sect. 1.((t) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 7. fol. 152. 1.((u) Massech. Kiddushin. (w) T. Bab. & Hieros. Kiddushin. (x) Hilch Ishot. c. 3. & 4. & 5. & 6. & 7. & 8. & 9. (y) Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 4. sect. 15. (z) Maimon. Hilch. Issure Bia, c. 12. sect. 7. Vid. Ib. Hilch. Nechalat, c. 2. sect. 12.

{9} For the unbelieving husband is {h} sanctified by the {i} wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the {k} husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they {l} holy.

(9) He answers an objection: but the faithful is defiled by the company of the unfaithful. The apostle denies that, and proves that the faithful man with good conscience may use the vessel of his unfaithful wife, by this, that their children which are born of them are considered holy or legitimate (that is, contained within the promise): for it is said to all the faithful, I will be your God, and the God of your seed.

(h) The godliness of the wife is of more force to cause their marriage to be considered holy, than the infidelity of the husband is to profane the marriage.

(i) The infidel is not sanctified or made holy in his own person, but in respect of his wife, he is sanctified to her.

(k) To the faithful husband.

(l) The children are holy in the same sense that their parents are; that is they are sanctified, or lawfully espoused together, so the children born of them were in a civil and legal sense holy, that is, legitimate. (Ed.)

14. sanctified—Those inseparably connected with the people of God are hallowed thereby, so that the latter may retain the connection without impairing their own sanctity (compare 1Ti 4:5); nay, rather imparting to the former externally some degree of their own hallowed character, and so preparing the way for the unbeliever becoming at last sanctified inwardly by faith.

by … by—rather, "in … in"; that is, in virtue of the marriage tie between them.

by the husband—The oldest manuscripts read, "by the brother." 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.

else … children unclean—that is, beyond the hallowed pale of God's people: in contrast to "holy," that is, all that is within the consecrated limits [Conybeare and Howson]. The phraseology accords with that of the Jews, who regarded the heathen as "unclean," and all of the elect nation as "holy," that is, partakers of the holy covenant. Children were included in the covenant, as God made it not only with Abraham, but with his "seed after" him (Ge 17:7). So the faith of one Christian parent gives to the children a near relationship to the Church, just as if both parents were Christians (compare Ro 11:16). Timothy, the bearer of this Epistle, is an instance in point (Ac 16:1). Paul appeals to the Corinthians as recognizing the principle, that the infants of heathen parents would not be admissible to Christian baptism, because there is no faith on the part of the parents; but where one parent is a believer, the children are regarded as not aliens from, but admissible even in infancy as sharers in, the Christian covenant: for the Church presumes that the believing parent will rear the child in the Christian faith. Infant baptism tacitly superseded infant circumcision, just as the Christian Lord's day gradually superseded the Jewish sabbath, without our having any express command for, or record of, transference. The setting aside of circumcision and of sabbaths in the case of the Gentiles was indeed expressly commanded by the apostles and Paul, but the substitution of infant baptism and of the Lord's day were tacitly adopted, not expressly enacted. No explicit mention of it occurs till Irenæus in the third century; but no society of Christians that we read of disputed its propriety till fifteen hundred years after Christ. Anabaptists would have us defer baptism till maturity as the child cannot understand the nature of it. But a child may be made heir of an estate: it is his, though incapable at the time of using or comprehending its advantage; he is not hereafter to acquire the title and claim to it: he will hereafter understand his claim, and be capable of employing his wealth: he will then, moreover, become responsible for the use he makes of it [Archbishop Whately].

7:10-16 Man and wife must not separate for any other cause than what Christ allows. Divorce, at that time, was very common among both Jews and Gentiles, on very slight pretexts. Marriage is a Divine institution; and is an engagement for life, by God's appointment. We are bound, as much as in us lies, to live peaceably with all men, Ro 12:18, therefore to promote the peace and comfort of our nearest relatives, though unbelievers. It should be the labour and study of those who are married, to make each other as easy and happy as possible. Should a Christian desert a husband or wife, when there is opportunity to give the greatest proof of love? Stay, and labour heartily for the conversion of thy relative. In every state and relation the Lord has called us to peace; and every thing should be done to promote harmony, as far as truth and holiness will permit. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, etc. This passage has been much debated, and little understood. The unbelieving husband or wife is not made personally holy, not do the children of believers have personal holiness transmitted to them by virtue of birth relation. Sanctification, then, means something besides personal holiness. To sanctify is to separate to a sacred use, or relation (Ex 20:8 28:38). Food is sanctified by the word of God and prayer (1Ti 4:4,5). Here Paul uses the term to denote that one Christian member of a household brings a sanctifying influence to it, so that all the members are to be regarded as separated in part from the great, ungodly, unclean world. Nehemiah commanded Jews to part from heathen wives on the ground that they were ceremonially unclean (Ne 13:23-27). Paul insists, rather, that the believer cleanses the other, and that the unbelieving partner, or the children, are rendered ceremonially clean.

But now are they holy. Brought into such a sacred relation that the unbelieiving partners are under the power of sacred influences, and not to be counted as sources of defilement.

Verse 14. - Is sanctified; literally, has been sanctified, the status has been rendered (so to speak) theoretically clean. By the wife; literally, in the wife. The bond is still holy; its holiness rests in the believing wife or husband. The reasoning would remove any scruples which Jewish Christians might derive from Deuteronomy 7:3, etc. By the husband; rather, in the brother. The liberty implied by these remarks, contrasting so strongly with the rigid rules laid down in the days of Ezra (Ezra 9; Nehemiah 9.) recall the change of dispensation. Unclean; i.e. not placed in immediate covenant relation to God. But now are they holy. This does not necessarily imply that they were baptized as infants, but only that they were hallowed as the fruit of a hallowed union. See the remarkable words of Malachi (Malachi 2:15). "If the root be holy, so are the branches" (Romans 11:16). Margin children

Gr. tekna, born ones.

the unbelieving husband.

1 Corinthians 6:15-17 Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I …

Ezra 9:1,2 Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, …

1 Timothy 4:5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Titus 1:15 To the pure all things are pure: but to them that are defiled and …


Ezra 9:2 For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons…

Isaiah 52:1 Awake, awake; put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful …

Malachi 2:15,16 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And …

Acts 10:23 Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter …

Romans 11:16 For if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the …

Is sanctified (ἡγίασται)

Not, made morally holy, but affiliated to the Christian community - the family of the ἅγιοι saints - in virtue of his being "one flesh" with his Christian wife.

7:14 For the unbelieving husband hath, in many instances, been sanctified by the wife - Else your children would have been brought up heathens; whereas now they are Christians. As if he had said, Ye see the proof of it before your eyes.
1 Corinthians 7:14 NIV
1 Corinthians 7:14 NLT
1 Corinthians 7:14 ESV
1 Corinthians 7:14 NASB
1 Corinthians 7:14 KJV

1 Corinthians 7:14 Bible Apps
1 Corinthians 7:14 Parallel
1 Corinthians 7:14 Biblia Paralela
1 Corinthians 7:14 Chinese Bible
1 Corinthians 7:14 French Bible
1 Corinthians 7:14 German Bible

Bible Hub
1 Corinthians 7:13
Top of Page
Top of Page