What did Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 7: 14 when he said children of a believer are holy, not unclean?

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What did Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 7

14 when he said children of a believer are holy, not unclean?

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Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:14 1 Corinthians 7:14For 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.
American King James Version×
: “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.”

In families where either a father or mother is a Christian believer, by virtue of God’s calling, God views both the unbelieving mate and their children in a special way. This verse does not necessarily say God calls unbelieving mates, but He blesses them. They live with a converted person, which provides them with an intimate exposure to God’s way of life.

The word “sanctification” is used to indicate “separation to God” ( Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words , “Sanctification, Sanctify”). Something or someone “sanctified” is set apart in a separate category for a particular use. “Holy” comes from hagios , which “fundamentally signifies ‘separated’ (among the Greeks, dedicated to the gods), and hence, in Scripture in its moral and spiritual significance, separated from sin and therefore consecrated to God, sacred” (ibid., “Holiness, Holy, Holily”).

While the believer’s conduct may be a powerful example for the unbelieving mate, he or she can usually go further than just setting an example to the children. A believing parent can actively teach them God’s way and directly develop their understanding and relationship with Him. Without the influence of a converted parent, children in the household would be no different from others who, in ignorance, disobey God and lead spiritually “unclean” lives. However, because of the parent’s conversion and relationship with God, such children are in a special category. Although not baptized, they are part of the “holy nation,” the Church (1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 2:9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
American King James Version×
). They also have special access to the knowledge of God’s way of life.Ho

In the process of maturing physically, emotionally and spiritually, children of a believer have the choice to accept and respond to God’s calling. If they do, they can receive the Holy Spirit as promised (Acts 2:38-39 Acts 2:38-39 38 Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
American King James Version×
).

As with anyone coming to conversion, children of members must experience genuine repentance. Additionally, they must understand the lifelong commitment and responsibilities of being an “ambassador for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20 2 Corinthians 5:20Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God.
American King James Version×
). Competent counseling from a variety of spiritually wise people, such as ministers, parents and experienced members, can greatly aid a young adult’s development toward baptism.

For more insight, please read our booklet Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension .