Skip to main content

On 1 Corinthians 7:14 "as it is they [the children] are holy"

For the unbelieving husband is set apart for God by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is set apart for God by the husband. Otherwise your children would be corrupt, but now they are set apart for God. (1 Corinthians 7:14 HCSB)
Most Bible versions translate hagios here to "holy" which is correct, except that it results in some interpreting the word in some salvific or new-covenant-inclusive sense by some paedobaptists, but I think the HCSB's rendering of "set apart" alludes to the correct understanding. The reason is this: The children are not made holy in the sense of being saved from the wrath to come. They are not justified. The only way that a child could be holy in a justified sense is according to the Scriptures, which is by their own faith, not because of the faith of their believing parent(s). So it follows that "holy" here means something other than faith. One common understanding shared by some, including John Calvin, is that "holy" here is in the context of a lawful marriage.

This understanding is further buttressed by the fact that the unbelieving husband is also made holy. There are at least two points to be gleaned here. First, if "holy" here means justification, then it follows that one may be justified without believing, or to put it more plainly, that there is such a thing as a justified unbeliever. We know from other perspicuous passages that this is not the case. The second point is that if Paul means that unbelievers are made holy/justified by their believing spouses, then a Christian marrying an unbeliever should be accepted, because the unbeliever would become a believer by virtue of their marriage. But we know this is not the case. In verse 16, Paul says plainly that the husband is not saved. Additionally, Paul teaches that unbelievers are not saved through marriage when he asks "what fellowship has light with darkness?" So an unbeliever married to a Christian is still an unbeliever, though Paul says that in some way he is "holy." It follows then that the unbeliever is not holy in a justified sense, but rather in some other way. The conclusion then is this: just as an unbelieving spouse is not made "holy" in the sense of justification or membership in Christ's covenant, neither are unbelieving children. Calvin's commentary on the passage is a more feasible solution.

For further support, again we see Paul using the term "holy" in a similar manner a few verses later when he writes,

There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:34)

Again, Paul is contrasting someone who is "holy" and someone who is not. But in this case both persons are believers, so Paul cannot mean "holy" in the sense of justified, but rather he means "set apart," as I believe he also meant in 7:14.

The late Greek scholar A.T. Robertson also offers a helpful interpretation in agreement with Calvin,

7:14 Is sanctified in the wife [hēgiastai en tēi gunaiki]. Perfect passive indicative of [hagiazō], to set apart, to hallow, to sanctify. Paul does not, of course, mean that the unbelieving husband is saved by the faith of the believing wife, though Hodge actually so interprets him. Clearly he only means that the marriage relation is sanctified so that there is no need of a divorce. If either husband or wife is a believer and the other agrees to remain, the marriage is holy and need not be set aside. This is so simple that one wonders at the ability of men to get confused over Paul’s language. Else were your children unclean [epei ara ta tekna akatharta]. The common ellipse of the condition with [epei]: “since, accordingly, if it is otherwise, your children are illegitimate [akatharta].” If the relations of the parents be holy, the child’s birth must be holy also (not illegitimate). “He is not assuming that the child of a Christian parent would be baptized; that would spoil rather than help his argument, for it would imply that the child was not [hagios] till it was baptized. The verse throws no light on the question of infant baptism” (Robertson and Plummer).

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Historical and Biblical Evidence for Elder Led Congregationalism

Historical evidence
    Historical evidence carries absolutely no weight unless Scripture confirms it. That said, however, it is wise to consider those who have traveled the path before us to see if we might profit from their experiences and insight, as recommended by Proverbs 24:6, "in abundance of counselors there is victory."     Working from present-day to Early Church history, it seems best to begin with some of the prominent and well-respected evangelical Christian thinkers of our day. In support of elder-led congregationalism, Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, member of the Together for the Gospel group, speaker at the Shepherd's Conference, and author of Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, states:
Jesus taught His followers in Matthew 18 that the final court for matters of disputes between brothers was the congregation. So we read in Matt. 18:15-17 that the final step is to “tell it” he said, not to the elders . . . but to the ekklesia, that’s th…

Who the Christian is in Christ

In Christ by His mercy and grace.... ...I am accepted: I am God’s child (John 1:12)
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am united with the Lord and one with Him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17)
I have been bought with a price—I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)
I am a member of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
I am a saint (Ephesians 1:1)
I have been adopted as God’s child (Ephesians 1:5)
I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18)
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins (Colossians 1:14)
I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)
...I am secure: I am free from condemnation (Romans 8:1,2)
I am assured that all things work together for good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28)
I am free from any condemning charges against me (Romans 8:31-34)
I cannot be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35-
I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21,22)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3…

A Baptist rebuttal to Dr. R. Scott Clark's 117-word explanation of paedobaptism

Dr. Clark's statement:

The Abrahamic covenant is still in force. The administration of the Abrahamic covenant involved believers and their children (Gen 17). That’s why Peter said, “For the promise to you and to your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). That’s a New Testament re-statement of the Abrahamic promise of Genesis 17 and in the minor prophets (e.g., Joel 2). Only believers have ever actually inherited, by grace alone, through faith alone, the substance of the promise (Christ and salvation) but the signs and seals of the promise have always been administered to believers and their children. It’s both/and not either/or.
Answer: Correct, the Abrahamic covenant is still in force, but what exactly is the Abrahamic covenant, and what do physical children have to do with it? Are there any benefits merely for being born into a family of believing parents? To answer that, let's look at how Paul explains the nature and pu…