“Shalom Sir, could you please explain 1 Corinthians 7:14-15 to me: Does it mean all babies of believers will be saved because their parents are holy?”
When 1 Corinthians 7:14-15 is read casually it surely seems to imply that an unbeliever who is married to a believer automatically becomes sanctified or holy in a salvational sense. Similarly, it also seems to imply that children born of such a union are also automatically holy. This idea is stretched further by some churches to justify the baptizing of infants. However, we know that salvation is never obtained by inheritance through a sexual or marital union. If a person is an adult, apart from God’s foreknowledge and predestination, he or she has to call on the Name of the Lord to be saved (Rom.10:13). So, what is the explanation?
It is important to note that the misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 7:14-15 comes from looking at the words “sanctified” and “holy” in a wrong context. It is important to know that the two terms may mean different things in different passages of Scripture and so one has to understand the context of their use.
In Haggai 2:12-13 we find the term “holy” being used to describe meat as “holy flesh“. Just how holy was this meat: was it holy in a manner that a child of God has to be holy as God is (1 Pet.1:15-17)? Not so, it was holy in a ceremonial sense. It had been set apart according to the requirement of the Mosaic Law. This should bring us to analyzing another term closely related to holiness or sanctification, the term “righteousness”.
In Romans 3:10 (and also Psalm 14:3) we read that “There is none righteous, no, not one“. However, in Luke 1:5 there is a record of a couple – Zecharias and Elizabeth; “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless“. Did Scripture contradict itself? Not so, it should be clear to see that there was that ceremonial or religious righteousness that required adherence to statutes or commandments. In Israel there were devout men who were determined to do what was right before God. However, sin was still in the blood and nature of mankind and it was only through the pure and sinless blood of Jesus Christ that we could receive the righteousness of God. Like apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ). Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom.5:17-19).
Note that the righteousness of a ceremony or of the Law was by works but that which is of Christ is called “the gift of righteousness” in Romans 5:17 because a true believer is dead to the flesh and lets the Holy Spirit live himself through them to manifest the holiness of God. That holiness comes by faith and not through a marital union.
Now, let us understand the subject Paul is dealing with in the sixth and seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 6:16-20 he admonishes believers to never defile themselves in sexual union with a harlot. Note that acts of fornication and adultery involves committing a right act with a wrong person. However, when a man and woman are married, the bed or their union is ‘holy’ so to speak – “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb.13:4). The word used for undefiled in Greek is amiantos and means to be pure and it is derived from miaino which is a verb meaning to ‘sully’, ‘taint’ or ‘contaminate’ in a ceremonial or moral way.
In the seventh chapter Paul continues to teach believing couples on how to relate with each other. He tells a believing couple to never divorce and further warns that if a marital relationship so much deteriorates that one spouse decides to leave, “let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband” (Rom.7:11). When Paul got done speaking to believing couples, he began to address those who were in mixed marriages (i.e. marriages in which one spouse was a believer but the other was an unbeliever). In 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 he explained that a believer who is married to an unbeliever should not consider divorcing his or her spouse on the excuse that their marriage is not acceptable before God. Whilst a believer who is single should only marry a fellow believer (cf. 1 Cor.7:39), there are those who came into the faith whilst already married. It is this category of people Paul was addressing. A believing spouse in such a marriage should know that their union (or ‘bed’) is not defiled; their marriage is ceremonially clean and acceptable, and through a godly and sanctified life of a believing spouse, the unbeliever and children may come to salvation. “For what knowest thou” Paul wrote, “whether thou shalt save thy husband ? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife” (Rom.7:16). Note that Paul wouldn’t have said these words if in verses 13 and 14 he meant spouses or children could automatically be saved through a relationship.
But, a question may be asked, “Where do babies go when they die?”
When a child dies prematurely someone may exclaim, “Oh, that child could have been doctor or a president!” That is true but there may very well be a possibility that the child could have grown to be a murderer or a Hitler. No one knows the future of children. We can only dedicate our children to God and do our best to raise them in the right path. A time will come when their senses of judgement will be mature to make a decision. However, if they die prematurely I can only say God’s Election will take course. If a child was ordained to Eternal Life by God’s foreknowledge he will surely be saved. “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” the Scripture says (Act.13:48).