He wrote that these partners should remain together, “for sanctified is the unbelieving man in his wife and sanctified is the unbelieving wife in the [Christian] brother. Otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.”
Women converted to Christianity in far greater numbers than men in the early church. Close to 177 AD, the Greek philosopher Celsus noted that women constituted a large majority of new converts among the gentiles.
In the event of a divorce in Greco-Roman society, the children typically remained with their father.
By the first century AD, Jews had abandoned the notion of marriage as a transfer of ownership from the bride’s parents to her husband. Instead, they adhered to the concept of being set apart for one another. “Sanctify,” “set apart,” “consecrate,” “treat as holy,” and “dedicate” are all translations of one Greek word, hagiazō.
Therefore, a man avowed that his wife was sanctified to him and he would sanctify her, affirming the lawfulness of their marriage. In addition, by having set apart a spouse to oneself prior to coming to Christ, that unbeliever now lived within a godly sphere of influence.
Unlike the rabbis (m. Kiddushin 2:1–3, 10), Paul denoted the believing spouse as the one who sanctifies the unbeliever, regardless of gender. This placed a female Christian in the more spiritually powerful role normally reserved for a Jewish male.
Elsewhere, he wrote, “there is not Jew nor Greek, there is not slave nor free, there is not male nor female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
Furthermore, Paul’s thought differs from Jewish teaching that any children issuing from a mixed marriage assume the status of the “genealogically blemished” wife (Ezra 10:3; m. Kiddushin 3:12). Instead, they are “holy,” with full right of access to the community of believers.
Indeed, the holy status of the children proves that God has set both spouses apart in his sight.
This family solidarity derives from the “two becoming one flesh” in the divinely-ordained institution of marriage (Gen 2:24). Thus, their home becomes a sacred sphere for God’s transforming power, with increased potential for their salvation.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Read 1 Cor 7:14. What effect does one believing spouse have upon a family? Why is that?
[Related posts include Marital Separation (1 Cor 7:10–11); Concerning Mixed Marriages (1 Cor 7:12–13); Dissolution of Marriage (1 Cor 7:15–16); Not Good! (Gen 2:18); An Equal and Adequate Partner (Gen 2:21–23); A Transfer of Loyalty (Gen 2:24); Effects of the Fall Reversed (Rom 5:12–21 and Rom 16:1–12); and Ancient Literature]
 Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 297.
 Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. Ed., 329.
Origen, Against Celsus, 44.3, https://archive.org/stream/antenicenefathe00menzgoog#page/n458/mode/2up.
 Keener, IVPBBCNT, 1 Cor 7:14.
Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “′αγιαζω” (hagiazō), BDAG, 9–10.
 Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 298-9.
Yonder Moynihan Gillihan, “Jewish Laws on Illicit Marriage, the Defilement of Offspring, and the Holiness of the Temple: A New Halakic Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:14,” JBL 121, no. 4 (12 January 2002): 711–44, 718.
 Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 301–302.
 Gillihan, “Jewish Laws On Illicit Marriage, the Defilement of Offspring, and the Holiness of the Temple: A New Halakic Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:14, 715.
 Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 299-301.