The Unmarried and Widows - Page 6 of 7 (series: Lessons on 1st Corinthians)
by John Lowe
God made adequate provision for justice under the Law. This is the way it worked: When a matter arose that was not covered by the Law, they were to appeal to the priests. Deuteronomy 17:8–11 says: “If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose; And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and inquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment: And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.” When a certain situation arose that was not covered by the Law, the people were to appeal to the priest; he would make a decision, and his decision became the law for cases which dealt with the same issue. That was God’s method, and it is the provision God made for Israel. Not every specific case was covered by the Mosaic Law, although great principles were laid down. The priests were to know the Old Testament, and when a case arose which was not covered specifically by the Law, the people were to bring the matter before the priests for a decision. And the priests would interpret the Mosaic Law for the people according to the great principles found in the Word of God.
The unbeliever and the children are considered holy in a positional sense. Hence, the principle of the communication of uncleanness given in the Old Testament does not apply here (also see Rom 11–16). The unbelieving spouse and the children share in God’s blessing, along with the one who is saved, and they are more likely to become converted by the presence and influence of the saved partner. “Why should a Christian try to keep their marriage to a non-Christian together?” Because God can be glorified in such a marriage, and eventually, the believing spouse may draw the unbelieving spouse to Jesus Christ.
I apologize for the lengthy explanation, but I thought it was necessary to clarify what the apostle has said in this very important verse.
and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband:
The oldest manuscripts read, "by the brother." Paul provided the fact that the husband is a "brother," that is, a Christian, though the wife is not; but that one fact sanctifies or
hallows the marriage. This is a reason the apostle gives for them living together. However, this cannot mean that there is an internal sanctification, which is never the case; an unbeliever cannot be sanctified by a believer in this sense, because such sanctification is only provided by the Spirit of God. It is equally true that the marital union CANNOT produce external sanctification, or an outward reformation, although the unbelieving spouse may sometimes show improvement, it does not always happen, or it doesn’t last.
else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
If this kind of relational sanctification was not allowed, the children produced from the marriage could not be received into the Christian Church, or enjoy any rights, or privileges as Christians; but the Church of God never failed to admit such children as members, just as she admitted children that had sprung from parents both of whom were Christians.
The Jews considered a child whose parents were not proselytes at the time of the birth, born out of holiness, even though they became proselytes after the birth. 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 presumed unclean by the Jews; and they believed all their own children were holy. This shows clearly what the apostle's meaning is.
Else were your children unclean—that is, outside the hallowed status of God's people: in contrast to "holy," which is just the opposite; or, all who are within the consecrated limits. The phraseology is in agreement with that of the Jews, who regarded the heathen as "unclean," and the entire elect nation as "holy," that is, partakers of the holy covenant. Children were included in the covenant, because God made the covenant 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 close relationship to the Church, just as if both parents were Christians (compare Ro 11:16). Paul appeals to the Corinthians to accept the principle, that the infants of heathen parents would not be allowed Christian baptism, because there is no faith on the part of the parents; but where one parent is a believer, the children are allowed to share in the Christian covenant, even in infancy, because the Church presumes that the believing parent will rear the child in the Christian faith.
But now are they holy. Holy in the same sense as the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife. That is, they are legitimate. They are not to be branded and treated as bastards, as they would be, if the couple separated. "You regard them as having been born in lawful wedlock, and they are so; and they should be treated as such by their parents, and not be exposed to shame and disgrace by your separation.”